September 27, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Blood & Oil”


BLOOD & OIL:  Sunday 9PM on ABC – If Nothing Else Is On…

ABC’s BLOOD & OIL, along with the same network’s midseason The Catch, holds the season’s crown for the most alterations inflicted on a series between pilot script and air.  It’s been recast and reshot in part, made its way through a trio of showrunners (original series co-creator Josh Pate to Cynthia Cidre to the current Jon Feldman), and even retitled–and all of this came after years of development at two different networks.  So snap judgments on the basis of the initial hour are particularly subject to revision once the new team is able to find its feet.  Still, your reaction when you see the pilot may be surprise that so much fiddling would be necessary for what–at least for the moment–is a straightforward, indeed aggressively old-fashioned TV soap.

The only slightly unusual thing about Blood & Oil in its current version is that for now, it’s more concerned with money than sex.  The script, by Pate and fellow creator Rodes Fishburne, gives us Billy and Cody LeFever (Chace Crawford and Rebecca Rittenhouse), shiny newlyweds with a plan to open a laundromat in the oil boom town of Rock Springs, North Dakota.  That plan is derailed almost instantly, leaving the LeFevers desperate.  Before long, though, they come into the orbit of Hap Briggs (Don Johnson), the town’s oil baron, when Billy realizes that Hap is buying up land to expand his oilfields, and that there’s a possibility of picking up one of those lots before he closes his deal.  Most of the hour finds Billy frantically trying to outmaneuver Hap, a move Hap finds endearingly like his own beginnings.  Unfortunately for the LeFevers, Hap comes equipped with scheming wife Carla (Amber Valletta), and bad seed son Wick (Scott Michael Foster, recently of Chasing Life), neither of whom is pleased by Hap’s affection for the new kid in town.

Everything in Blood & Oil is written in capital letters, from Hap’s drawling charm to Wick’s bitter meanness.  Billy and Cody are puppyish, and Carla seems like little more than a vehicle for adultery.  The pilot, directed by Pate, has energy and some impressive scenery (although as with nearly all series, a pilot’s visual quality may not extend to regular episodes), but no depth.  Johnson has fun with his neo-JR Ewing role, and he and Crawford have a pleasant surrogate father-son chemistry.  Everyone else, however, is rather bland (or in Foster’s case, more than a little over the top), even compared to the recent (and now dead) TNT reboot of Dallas, which was second-tier in its own right.

Blood & Oil is being pushed heavily by ABC, and it should do adequately in the network’s Sunday soap slot where, apart from football, it faces the always-on-the-bubble The Good Wife and FOX’s young-male-skewing comedies.  There’s no sign, however, of a breakout hit in its DNA.  That is, unless the coming weeks find it revolutionized by its new creative team–but such turnarounds are about as frequent as, well, striking oil.


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."