July 13, 2017

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Salvation”


SALVATION:  Wednesday 10PM on CBS

CBS’s summer series SALVATION presents a potential end of the world so pedestrian that viewers might fall asleep while awaiting the apocalypse.  It’s a disappointment, because at their best (BrainDead, the first season of Under the Dome), CBS’s forays into the sci-fi potboiler genre can be entertainingly over the top.  Not this time.

The very bad idea (the project seems to have gone through several rounds of development, with a “created by” credit to both Matt Wheeler and the team of Liz Kruger and Craig Shapiro) was to take the basic concept of Deep Impact and Armageddon–a planet-killing meteor hurtling straight toward Earth–but remove the visual spectacle that were those movies’ real reason for existing.  Instead, we get a plucky group of heroes who are going to find some way to save the world in the 6 months that remain before extinction:  arrogant tech billionaire Darius Tanz (Santiago Cabrera), eager MIT grad student Liam (Charlie Rowe), and for some reason Defense Department press officer Grace Darrow (Jennifer Finnigan).  To humanize them, Grace has a teen daughter and a relationship with her secretive boss (Ian Anthony Dale), and Liam has just met the sci-fi writing love of his life.  There’s also a scheming reporter (Fake News!) and an obligatory shadowy group that’s kidnapping and killing those who know too much about what’s going on.

Kruger and Shapiro are experienced showrunners, with series like Necessary Roughness to their credit, but they’re also the producers who took over Extant in its 2d season, and there was nothing there to suggest that sci-fi played to their strengths.  The characters here are bland enough to make one hope the actors were at least able to keep their mortgages up to date.  The pilot script is a parade of exposition in which the characters absorb the grim news about the planet, then stiffen their jaws and decide that they’ll figure out some way to rescue humanity.  Pilot director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo keeps the train on its tracks without contributing anything distinctive to the show’s visual style.  (We’re supposed to be thrilled when a laptop computer’s graphic is projected into a room-size 3D image, an effect that might have seemed cool in the 1998 era of Deep Impact.)  We’re in a TV era clogged with apocalyptic fantasies, and a network has to try harder than this to make an impression.

Salvation is being promoted as a “summer event,” but then Under the Dome was originally supposed to be one season, too.  This time, it seems unlikely that public demand will require more than the 10 episodes ordered.  Salvation is ill-titled, if the future of broadcast drama was at risk along with the planet.

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."