September 4, 2018

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “The Purge”


THE PURGE:  Tuesday 10PM on USA

THE PURGE movie franchise has made a fortune by working both sides of the ideological street.  On the one hand, it professes to condemn the near-future dystopia it depicts, in which an authoritarian government flushes the pipes of America by allowing 12 hours of nearly unrestricted violence without consequence.  Recent chapters of the franchise have honed an even more explicitly left-wing message, making it clear that from the start, The Purge was intended to slaughter the poor and minorities.  On the other hand, of course, the movies exult in their own bloodlust, providing a simulated purge for audiences.  It’s a formula at least as old as the Little Caesar-era gangster epics of old Hollywood.

It was inevitable that such a potent spring of IP would find its way to the small screen; the only surprise is that Universal (both the studio that produces The Purge and owner of USA Network) took the risk of diluting the movie franchise by putting it on TV while the films are still thriving.  But they did, and so we have the “10 Episode Television Event” series version of The Purge, created like the movies by writer James DeMonaco.  The season will cover one Purge night, and even without commercials it will require nearly 8 hours to tell a story that hasn’t even taken 2 in any film.  That implies a need for depth that doesn’t play to the franchise’s strengths.

As in the movies, the narrative follows the Purge Night stories of a few selected characters.  Miguel (Gabriel Chavarria) is on the trail of his sister Penelope (Jessica Garza), who’s joined a Purge suicide cult.  Jenna (Hannah Emily Anderson) and Rick (Colin Woodell) are an ambitious but civic-minded couple attending a patrician Purge Night party at the home of the woman (Banshee knockout Lili Simmons, barely seen in the pilot) with whom they shared a threesome.  Jane (Amanda Warren) is a businesswoman with a criminal plan on Purge Night.

These stories are neither better than worse than the ones the films have followed, but by necessity, they’re much slower here.  The opening hour of the series barely takes the narrative to the start of the year’s Purge, and nothing so far suggests that there are 9 more hours of rewarding storytelling to come.  Without the accelerating pace of the ticking clock provided on the big screen, there’s time to notice the highly variable acting, the dull production values (even with ace director Anthony Hemingway behind the camera) and the flat dialogue.

There’s certainly an audience for The Purge (this past summer’s First Purge earned almost $135M worldwide in theaters), and USA has a seemingly compatible lead-in platform with WWE Smackdown.  Commercially, it’s hard to disagree with the plan.  A weekly hour devoted to a second-hand wallow in carefree, thought-free murder, however, can make a viewer wish for the more medical sort of purge.


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."