October 25, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Survivor’s Remorse”


Starz’s SURVIVOR’S REMORSE took some confident steps forward in its second season, even if that wasn’t reflected in the lackluster ratings.  Season 1 was mostly content with being a sports-driven Entourage clone (a position now occupied by HBO’s Ballers) about basketball star Cam Calloway (Jessie T. Usher) and his family basking in free agency wealth, but series creator/showrunner Mike O’Malley sharpened the focus on character the second time around to improved results.  While the themes of money, class and race were still there, of course, they were treated more as background facts of life than constant signposts.

The comedy stayed broad and often effectively rude, yet felt more grounded.  The usually amiable Cam was at times a self-important jerk, called out by team owner Jimmy Flaherty (Chris Bauer, playing the role one could easily imagine O’Malley himself taking) and recent serious girlfriend Allison (Meagan Tandy).  The relationship between Cam’s mother Cassie (Tichina Arnold) and his gay sister Mary Charles (standout Erica Ash) was more believably prickly, a sometimes comfortable and sometimes nasty ride of banter and recrimination.  Cousin/manager Reggie (RonReaco Lee) was given a fresh storyline that had him building on his ambitions by also representing a college football player whose antics were conspicuously close to recent headlines, and apparently all it took for his wife Missy (Teyonah Parris) to stop being a snob and become a full-fledged member of the ensemble was a new hairdo.  Uncle Julius (Mike Epps), the most cartoonish of the leads, revealed some layers, especially in an episode that had him first befriending and then repelled by the local police (of both races) in the family’s new ritzy community.  Even recurring character Da Chen Bao (Robert Wu), head of the Chinese sneaker company that hired Cam as its celebrity face and more recently Cassie’s boyfriend, turned out to have some wisdom to impart to the others.

Tonight’s season finale, written by O’Malley and directed by Peter Segal, went surprisingly dark in an ending that appeared to kill off Julius in a climactic car accident (although things were ambiguous enough for a miraculous survival to still be possible).  Reggie’s management company took a step back when he relinquished his deal with Jupiter (Ser’Darius Blain), but the follow-up to his high-stakes poker episode with Flaherty, Bao and the real-life Tom Werner and series executive producer LeBron James (after Trainwreck, we can no longer be surprised that the latter knows how to handle a punchline) suggested his career beyond Cam was just beginning.  Cam’s own relationship with the somewhat idealized Allison (she turned down an Escalade for reasons of principle) appeared to be true love.

Survivor’s Remorse, airing with the incompatible and mostly blundering Blunt Talk, didn’t show much in the ratings this season, but has earned good buzz and a Season 3 renewal.  (Blunt Talk will be back too, but that’s because the network unwisely made an expensive 2-season commitment to it up front.)  In comedy, tone and characters are everything, and as with Cam adjusting to his new team, it took a bit of time for the series to find its game, but now it’s playing at a consistently high-scoring level.

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."