June 15, 2014

THE SKED Pilot + 1 Review: “Power”


POWER:  Saturday 9PM on Starz

A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on POWER:  James “Ghost” St. Patrick (Omari Hardwick) is secretly one of New York’s most successful narcotics distributors, as well as the owner of the hot new nightclub ironically named “Truth.”  Ghost’s wife Tasha (Naturi Naughton) and partner Tommy (Joseph Sikora) want him to concentrate on his drug trade and use the club strictly as a way to launder his dirty money, but his heart is with Truth, which could make him legitimate.  On the illegal end of his trade, Ghost is in business with a ruthless cartel kingpin named Lobos, and it’s unclear whether that’s related to the mysterious hitwoman from Miami who’s begun targeting Ghost’s couriers.  Sure to complicate matters:  Ghost has just re-acquainted himself with Angela (Lela Loren), his true love when they were teens, before she went off to Yale Law School, and now she just happens to be an Assistant District Attorney on an anti-cartel task force.  At the moment, neither of them knows what the other does for a living.  Considering that Tasha is already putting on sex shows in the back of her limo for chauffeur Shawn (Sinqua Walls), none of this is likely to end well.

Episode 2:  More of the same.  Series creator Courtney Kemp Agboh, who wrote both the pilot and the second hour (Anthony Hemingway directed both as well), didn’t add anything much to the mix in Power‘s second episode–and since there are only 8 in total, that’s a bit surprising.  Ghost continued wondering who had sent the hired killer to hit his people (she was called off at the end of the episode, her employer and his/her motives still unclear), and Tasha and Tommy continued to caution him not to spend so much of his time with Truth.  Tasha did another exhibition for Shawn in the back seat.  We discovered, surprise of surprises, that the other Assistant District Attorney competing with Angela on the anti-Lobos task force is an unscrupulous creep, and in case the fact that he made use of Angela’s FBI boyfriend Greg (Andy Bean) in his scheme wasn’t enough to let us know that Greg wasn’t any real replacement for Ghost in her life, the show made it thuddingly obvious by literally intercutting between Greg and Angela having unsatisfying sex and Ghost and Tasha doing the same.  (The show’s peak of visual ingenuity came–so to speak–when Ghost, mid-coitus, started looking at his face in a mirror that fragmented his reflection, so as to, you know, symbolize his state of mind.)  Ghost proved himself to be tough by having the dead body of a an enemy chopped up and distributed among his competitors, but also to be a Good Bad Guy by countermanding Tommy’s order and promoting, instead of killing, a courier who survived one of the hitwoman’s attacks.  Meanwhile, Ghost and Angela continued flirting, and he bought them matching whale keychains at the Museum of Natural History, as to which Power might as well put a clock in the corner of the screen to count off the minutes until those knick-knacks lead to discovery and disaster.

Power is no more interesting than something like FOX’s summer fill-in Gang Related, except that it pays its pay-cable dues with some moderately explicit sex, four-letter words and a bit more splattered blood.  Hardwick spends so much time handsomely brooding that a viewer’s sympathies almost switch over to Tommy, who’s meant to lack Ghost’s vision, but who seems at least to be comfortable in his criminal skin.  Tasha is a bluntly drawn character, and Angela’s gambit of blackmailing a witness with his romantic interest in his boss’s 14-year old daughter would have been more impressive if it hadn’t been fed to her by her boyfriend.  (For a series written by a woman, it’s rather odd that the three most prominent female characters are the rapacious Tasha, the none-too-bright Angela, and Angela’s boss, who tells her that no woman who wants to succeed can ever have a serious lover, a husband or children–Orange Is the New Black, this is not.)

Starz’s practice is to essentially give each new series a 2-year order when it’s picked up, even though they’re not announced that way at the outset, and like Boss, Magic City and Da Vinci’s Demons, Power was given an instant Season 2 renewal last week.  (Only Da Vinci has reached Season 3.)  As was the case with its predecessors, the renewal was in spite of lackluster ratings, as Starz continues to struggle in its search for an even moderate breakout hit.  The renewal gives Power 10 additional episodes, plus the 6 remaining this season, to prove that it deserves its place on premium air.  So far, it’s playing as a strictly straight-to-VOD crime melodrama.

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."