November 16, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Shooter”


SHOOTER:  Tuesday 10PM on USA – Change the Channel

USA Network has had a tough time populating its post-Mr. Robot schedule.  Sam Esmail’s series, while not a ratings blockbuster, has been a re-branding triumph, instantly changing the image of USA from the stodgy network of Monk and Royal Pains to something darker, younger, cooler, and more daring.  Queen of the South and Colony have had modest success aiming at that new demographic, but the more recent Falling Water and Eyewitness have ratings that are barely above the subsistence level (either or both might end up canceled or kept on the air), and even worse, they’re generating no buzz at all.  The new SHOOTER is unlikely to help matters.

USA seems to know that Shooter is firing blanks:  postponed twice in July after its scheduled premiere dates unluckily coincided with actual sniper murders, the network let it sit on the shelf until November.  And when the series finally did arrive, it lacked the bells and whistles that usually accompany major cable launches these days, like back-to-back opening episodes, limited commercial interruptions and an early window online and via VOD.

Shooter‘s arrival was much more routine, and that describes the series as well.  The opening hour is essentially a restatement of the introductory sequences from the 2007 movie (close enough that original screenwriter Jonathan Lemkin shares writing credit with series creator John Hlavin), itself based on a novel by Stephen Hunter.  Ryan Phillippe plays the Mark Wahlberg role (Wahlberg is one of the producers of the series) as Bob Lee Swagger, a retired Army marksman who lives outside Seattle with loving wife Julie (Shantel Van Santen) and their darling little daughter.  Bob Lee, despite his lethal capabilities, is so nonviolent that he rescues forest animals from boorishly brutal hunters.  Then his old war buddy Isaac Johnson (Omar Epps, in a variation of the movie’s Danny Glover role), now with the Secret Service, shows up to ask for Bob Lee’s help in calculating just where and how an assassin–namely, the Chechen who shot Bob Lee and killed his best friend during the war–would fire at the President from long range on an upcoming Seattle visit.

As anyone who remembers the movie knows, Bob Lee is actually being set up as a patsy by evildoers who take the shot he designed and all too easily place the blame on him.  Also caught in the plot is sympathetic FBI agent Nadine Memphis (Cynthis Addai-Robinson, in the Michael Pena role), who just knows there’s something too neat about the case against Bob Lee.  That’s where the pilot leaves off, and presumably the series will be concerned with Bob Lee’s staying one step ahead of the authorities while trying to prove who really shot the President, territory that was covered in under 90 minutes in the movie.

Based on the pilot, the Shooter series is as routinely functional as one of Bob Lee’s shots.  None of the characters is allotted more than a teaspoon of personality (the hosts on Westworld are far more human), and Simon Cellan Jones’s direction dutifully journeys from expository scene to small-scale action sequence.  Phillippe lacks Wahlberg’s man-of-the-people charisma, basically re-running his performance from Season 1 of Secrets & Lies, where he also played an innocent man pursued by the law.  Nowhere is there any suggestion that the people behind the series have any spin on the movie other than the notion that its basic plot framework could be stretched for an indefinite period of time.

Shooter is the worst of both worlds for USA, without the modest charms of its old-school light procedurals, but also short on imagination and personality.  Its aim is way off.

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."