October 11, 2014

SHOWBUZZDAILY Pilot + 1 Review: “Survivor’s Remorse”


SURVIVOR’S REMORSE:  Saturday 9PM on Starz

A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at SHOWBUZZDAILY, we look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on SURVIVOR’S REMORSE:  When basketball phenom Cam Calloway (Jessie T. Usher) signs his first giant free agency contract and moves to Atlanta, he takes his family entourage with him:  cousin Reggie (RonReaco Lee), sister M-Chuck (Erica Ash), mother Cassie (Tichina Arnold), and uncle Julius (Mike Epps), along with Reggie’s wife Missy (Teyonah Parris).  All of them have to deal with the challenges of super-stardom and mega-millions.

Episode 2:  The second half-hour of Survivor’s Remorse was far more topical than writer/series creator Mike O’Malley could have imagined when he first wrote it.  It revolved around Cassie, interviewed live on a charity event’s red carpet, blithely chatting about “whupping” Cam as a boy, and how some strokes with a plastic Hot Wheels track or an extension cord had helped him grow up.  By the time she was defending herself by remarking that children were resilient and bruises fade, it was all too much like the Adrian Peterson story to be quite as innocently satiric as the original intention had been.  (The joke was supposed to be heightened by the fact that Cassie didn’t realize that the charity event she was attending was for a foundation named after a little girl who’d had her brains battered by an abusive parent.)

Survivor’s Remorse doesn’t seem to be intended as a “ripped from the headlines” expose kind of show, and this episode played out in a different key than the rest of the series is likely to do, as uncomfortable as it was funny.  Even though the story included a contrived scene where Cam learned that child assault is bad by having an enthusiastic fan tell him on the street that he’d just started beating his son because it had worked out so well for Cam, one wonders if O’Malley would have written things differently (the episode, directed by Ken Whittingham, ended with Cam and Reggie casually messing around by hitting each other with Hot Wheels tracks) in the light of real-life events.  Even without the Peterson parallels, though, this episode was somewhat more cynical than the pilot had been.  The question of the episode was whether Cassie would appear at a press conference and apologize for her remarks, and although Reggie thought he’d talked her into doing it by convincing her that even Oprah was condemning her actions–actually, Cassie was on to him, and while she’d turned down an offer of $50K to cooperate earlier in the episode, she demanded $100K after tearfully expressing her fake-remorse for the cameras.

This was a little cheaper than the level of humor suggested by the pilot, and along with a subplot that had Uncle Julius “tasting” women before they could get to Cam’s bed, it felt more like Entourage, which here isn’t necessarily a good thing.  What did continue to work was the ease among the ensemble, particularly between Usher and RonReaco, and also the bits involving the Atlanta team’s no-nonsense owner (guest star Chris Bauer in a role Mike O’Malley himself might have played) and his relaying of team commands through Reggie.

The ratings for the Survivor’s Remorse premiere were pretty bad, but Starz renews just about every scripted show that hits its air, so it’s already received an instant Season 2 orderl, and for 10 episodes instead of the current 6.  The series has potential, and by its nature this week’s episode was an unusual example of life catching up with art before art had a chance to air.  Now with plenty of time to grow, Remorse will be able to show whether it has the stuff for the big leagues.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."