March 28, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Recovery Road”


One never knows, but the rebranding of its network probably doesn’t bode well for RECOVERY ROAD.  The recently-renamed Freeform, which has over the last few months canceled Chasing Life and Switched At Birth, while renewing Stitchers and Shadowhunters, seems to be moving in the direction of heroine-led fantasy-adventures and procedurals, rather than the YA soaps that had branded ABC Family.

Even beyond that trend, Recovery Road‘s ratings have been tepid at best, and despite some good acting and effective storytelling, there isn’t much about its content to make it stand out.  The only wrinkle it adds to the teen soap genre is its setting, a sober living facility, which turned out, some 12-step jargon aside, not to be all that different from setting a teen drama in a private school.  That was especially true once the show (mercifully) more or less abandoned its original conceit, which was that protagonist Maddie (the talented Jessica Sula) was hiding her new residence from her pals at school, an idea that was leading to more contrivances than a season of Younger.

With Maddie’s secret out, series creators Bert V. Royal and Karen DiConcetto (who wrote the season finale, directed by Lawrence Trilling) went all-out on old-fashioned melodrama for the season’s final hour.  For Maddie’s sponsor/school guidance counselor Cynthia (Alexis Carra) alone, there were break-ups with both her fiancee and her illicit love, facility head Craig (David Witts)–which since her fiancee was also her boss led to her firing, which led to her falling off the wagon after 12 years sober, which led to an extended comedy sequence (of uncertain taste, given the circumstances) of Maddie and her mom Charlotte (Sharon Leal) carrying and shoving drunk Cynthia into Charlotte’s car, which led to Cynthis and Charlotte bonding, and that doesn’t even count the reveal that Cynthia had abandoned her own son with her own sponsor in Florida a dozen years earlier.  (And now they’re both on their way to LA!)  As the narrator of Jane the Virgin would say, “Whew!”  Then there was fellow resident Trish (Karla Pratt) and her imaginary daughter and stint on reality television.  And–truly one plotline too many–there was the climactic arrest of Maddie’s own illicit love Wes (Sebastian de Souza) for murder, apparently framed for the crime by his own brother.

It was all too much and yet not enough, rarely going deeper than a focus on bad parenting and AA’s stalwart support system.  (Even as a TV series about recovering addicts, Recovery Road is less tough-minded, not to mention less funny, than Mom.)  Royal and DiConcetto supplied some affecting moments, but the show doesn’t seem to have anywhere to go besides stirring up more soap.  There’s a solid cast here, with Sula, Leal and Carra the standouts who manage to bring some complexity to their characters, and Recovery Road‘s heart is in the right place.  The show can’t escape the tinge of Afterschool Special, though (almost a full act of the finale was scored to the cast singing “Lean On Me”), and for a network trying to make a splash, it’s a drama too familiar to raise more than a ripple.  Recovery Road may need to walk the rest of its steps off-camera.



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."