July 25, 2014

THE SKED Pilot + 1 Review: “Satisfaction”



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 SHOWBUZZDAILY, we look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on SATISFACTION:  The Trumans, Neil (Matt Passmore) and Grace (Stephanie Szostak) have comfortable suburban lives that are breaking apart.  Neil, an investment manager, delivers a diatribe about his life on an airliner marooned on the runway, which becomes a YouTube punchline.  Grace, regretful that she abandoned her design career for motherhood, is paying escort Simon (Blair Redford), which Neil is shocked to witness.  Neil ends up with Simon’s cellphone and list of contacts, and dabbles in being a gigolo himself, encouraged by agent Adrianna (Katherine LaNasa).  Somehow, all this works out for the Trumans:  Neil is promoted to firm partner, while Grace gets a chance at her first real design job.

Episode 2:  Satisfaction has everything a satiric comedy would need–except a point of view and consistent comic tone.  A key plot strand in the second episode had Grace smoking pot for the first time since college and hitting a point of creative bliss, able to turn out brilliant designs at will, and one half-wonders if that was the same way series creator Sean Jablonski pitched the show to USA (and if the network’s executives joined him).  The storyline–which when combined with the coke use by the hero of Rush in the previous hour made USA the most drug-friendly network this side of Willie Nelson’s public access channel–made as much sense as anything else in the hour, written by Jablonski and directed by Michael Smith.

Although Grace had her joys of being stoned, Satisfaction continued to center on Neil.  He and Simon played a game of auto-erotic one-upsmanship, as each stole the other’s car, and whoever was in possession of the cellphone sent provocative texts to Grace.  Neil also went on seeing the zen master he’d met in the pilot, who was wry in a way that was as cliched as if he had acted holy.  Neil continued to live a charmed professional life, with his first big client as a partner almost walking away (which led to a simply idiotic threat from Neil’s boss to forge his name on a contract and force him to refund a year’s salary), but then the client was bewitched by Adrianna, pretending on her own initiative to be Neil’s wife, and even more by Neil when he revealed that he and Adrianna weren’t married after all.  She, meanwhile, courted Neil–perhaps not vainly–to join her escort service.

If Satisfaction weren’t so bland, it might seem subversive, especially in the meek escapist universe of USA.  Who are these people having such flamboyant mid-life crises and skating their way through them?  Is Jablonski saying something about American society, or did he just watch American Beauty and Hung reruns over a baked weekend, and emerge with the inspiration for a show?  In its first two hours, the series seems to move forward in random directions, with little control over the result.

If there’s a satiric intent behind Satisfaction, the actors don’t seem in on the joke.  They give performances as middle-American soapy as one would find on any other basic cable series–and while it might be tempting to think that this is the joke, it doesn’t seem to be the case.  Satisfaction is mildly intriguing, as much out of sheer curiosity about where it thinks it’s going as anything else, but the one thing it doesn’t provide is its title.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  If Nothing Else is On…

PILOT + 1:  Caught Somewhere Between Provocative and Dull


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."