June 14, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Guilt”


GUILT:  Monday 9PM on Freeform – Change the Channel

The network now known as Freeform is making it clear that, building on the success of ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars, it intends to be a purveyor of YA genre tales.  Unfortunately, on the basis of Stitchers, Shadowhunters and the new Guilt, it’s hasn’t yet become very good at the task.  (Horror series Dead of Summer arrives in 2 weeks.)

Guilt is so clearly inspired by the Amanda Knox story that it might as well call its protagonist Kamanda Ox.  In fact her name is Grace Atwood (Daisy Head), a beautiful young American living in London whose roommate Molly is brutally murdered and who is instantly suspected of the crime.  Grace has a weakness for cocaine and a history of unstable behavior (she slashed the tires of the family car owned by her married professor lover, leading to a crash that injured his wife), so it’s lucky for her that her sister, straight-arrow Boston prosecutor Natalie (Emily Tremaine), is on the first flight to London to clear her name, working alongside eccentric defense attorney Stan (Billy Zane) and probably sympathetic police inspector Bruno (Cristian Solimeno).

The pilot script, by series creators Kathryn Price and Nichole Millard, wastes no time in piling up the potential suspects.  There’s Grace’s French boyfriend Luc (Zachary Fall), who may or may not have impregnated Molly.  Then there’s Molly and Grace’s other roommate Roz (Simona Brown), who along with Molly frequented an Eyes Wide Shut-ian sex club that includes British Prince Theo (Sam Cassidy) among its members.  And there’s something fishy about Grace and Molly’s stepfather James (Anthony Head, Daisy Head’s real-life father), whose scarf was unaccountably in the dead girl’s apartment.

The pieces are there for a guilty pleasure, but so far Guilt isn’t The Royals, let alone Scandal.  It’s not so much that the dialogue is tin-eared and the plotting is mechanical as that Price and Millard haven’t provided any wit or surprise.  The characters have little personality, and that includes Stan, even though he’s the one who’s clearly meant to be the breakout, loaded with what are intended as colorful details.  (He was disbarred in the US after urinating on a judge’s risotto.)  Zane throws his best James Spader at the role, but Stan is as cardboard as anyone else.  Pilot director Gary Fleder also wasn’t able to get performances out of the others that go beyond the bare minimum, so it’s hard to care about any of them.  Fleder does try to get some mileage out of his London locations, although as with most pilots, it’s likely that the production values will drop after the opening hour.

Guilt shows little sign of being able to propel its very familiar storyline into a tale worth 10 hours of anyone’s time, or of featuring characters with any dimension.  The series also won’t be helped by the fact that Freeform, still in a state of transition, is pairing it with the earnestly incompatible The Fosters beginning next week.  The network may know its chosen genre but hasn’t found its form.

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."