May 30, 2017

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Still Star-Crossed”


STILL STAR-CROSSED:  Monday 10PM on ABC – If Nothing Else Is On…

The idea of a Shonda Rhimes-produced sequel to one of Shakespeare’s classics sounds like something that might air on a satirical network, but STILL STAR-CROSSED is real, albeit relegated by ABC to its summer minor leagues.  (The actual series creator/showrunner is Heather Mitchell, a veteran of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal whose starting point was a novel by Melinda Taub.)  It continues the story of Verona after the events of Romeo & Juliet, although with its ornate palaces and focus on true love, its opening hour sometimes feels more like a spin-off of Once Upon A Time than a Shondaland production.

The pilot, written by Mitchell and directed by Michael Offer with an eye to visual scale, is both too much and not enough, partly because it eats up its first half retracing the latter steps of Romeo & Juliet, which loads the second half with set-up and exposition.  It appears that our heroine is going to be Rosaline (Lashana Lynch), a minor Capulet in Shakespeare’s play.  Here, she and her sister Livia (Ebonee Noel) are cousins of Juliet’s who have been taken in by the Capulet family after their wing of the clan lost their father and their fortune, and Rosaline has a romantic backstory with Prince Escalus (Sterline Sulieman), who has just inherited the leadership of Verona.  (The Capulets and Verona’s royal family are so effortlessly diverse in this telling of a 16th century story that one wonders if a prequel might have been more interesting than a sequel.)  Rosaline faces distress in all directions:  Juliet’s mother Giuliana (Zuleikha Robinson) despises her, and Escalus is pushing her into a loveless marriage with the Montague Bevolio (Wade Briggs) to force peace onto the city after the deaths of Romeo and Juliet.

Rosaline seems a fair enough heroine, and Lynch plays her with spirit, but by the end of the opening hour, she’s the only character of any interest.  Escalus makes speeches about the public interest while looking upon Rosaline longingly, Benvolio glares, Livia is a spoiled brat, Giuliana is a snarling villain, and that’s just about all we know.  Since Grant Bowler and Anthony Head are respectively atop the Houses of Montague and Capulet, one expects that they’ll have more to do as time goes on, but so far they mostly look concerned.  No one would expect Mitchell’s primetime network dialogue to be Shakespearean, but even as TV writing it’s lacking in nuance and surprise, and it’s made worse by the way everyone speaks in an English-ish accent so we’ll know they’re of noble birth.

If Still Star-Crossed were a streaming show, of course, its entire run would be available, and we could see now if it’s going to fall apart or grow into something worthwhile over the next few episodes.  As it is, viewers will have to decide if the messy opening hour is worth the investment of more time over the next several weeks.  (It does have the benefit of a compatible lead-in from The Bachelorette, as well as the generally low ratings expectations for summer programming.)  Give Rhimes and Mitchell credit for trying something outside the broadcast norm, but star-crossed so far describes the script as well as its lovers.

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."