Today's TV column features two very different stories of survival -- the first, set in the present, deals mostly with the guilt associated with being the lucky one who escaped a tragic outcome; the second, set in fictional border-straddling past, speculates on what the Wild West might have been if fewer men had survived long enough to make a muddy, bloody mess of it.

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This article was published 3/10/2014 (2793 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Opinion

Today's TV column features two very different stories of survival -- the first, set in the present, deals mostly with the guilt associated with being the lucky one who escaped a tragic outcome; the second, set in fictional border-straddling past, speculates on what the Wild West might have been if fewer men had survived long enough to make a muddy, bloody mess of it.

 

Survivor's Remorse, which premières Saturday on Super Channel (check listings for time), is a contemporary comedy that examines the pitfalls and personal struggles that follow the arrival of sudden and substantial wealth.

Survivor's Remorse, which was produced for U.S. cable's Starz network, follows the story of Cam Calloway (Jessie T. Usher), a 22-year-old basketball phenom who rose from the mean streets of Boston, scrapped his way into the professional ranks as an undrafted free agent, and has become a superstar who has signed a nine-figure contract with the team in Atlanta.

And now that he's made it, Cam is beginning to realize that all those miles and all that money can't completely distance him from the people and problems that were part of his life in Beantown.

Wild West women: from left, Tattiawna Jones, Cara Gee and Melissa Farman.

SUPPLIED PHOTO

Wild West women: from left, Tattiawna Jones, Cara Gee and Melissa Farman.

Helping him navigate this delicate transition from nobody to hoops royalty are cousin/agent Reggie (RonReaco Lee), sister Mary Charles "M-Chuck" (Erica Ash), rough-talking mom Cassie (Tichina Arnold), reliable but acquisitive uncle Julius (Mike Epps) and Missy (Teyonah Parris), Reggie's decidedly status-conscious wife.

The series première finds Cam jetting to Atlanta for a big contract signing, ferrying the team owner's private jet to L.A. for the ESPY Awards, and then taking a secret trip back to the 'hood to deal with a disgruntled former friend who has laid his hands on some potentially embarrassing artifacts from the young basketball star's past.

It's raw, coarse-talking, mature-themed comedy (think Entourage, but in the NBA rather than Tinseltown), and it combines interesting insights with several laugh-out-loud moments.

(The second episode feels rather joltingly timely in light of some of the issues currently facing NFL stars).

And just as Entourage could claim to be an informed perspective on stardom because it was loosely based on actor/producer Mark Wahlberg's life, Survivor's Remorse has a production pedigree that gives its storylines extra weight -- in addition to TV veteran Mike O'Malley (Glee) and producer/pro-sports team owner Tom Werner, the roster of executives also includes NBA star LeBron James and his longtime friend/manager, Maverick Carter.

Success isn't a slam-dunk for this show, but it's a pretty high-percentage shot.

From left, Survivior's Remorse stars Mike Epps as Uncle Julius, RonReaco Lee as Reggie and Teyonah Parris as Missy.

QUANTRELL D. COLBERT/STARZ

From left, Survivior's Remorse stars Mike Epps as Uncle Julius, RonReaco Lee as Reggie and Teyonah Parris as Missy.

Meanwhile, back in the Old West, CBC's new drama Strange Empire (which premières Monday at 9 p.m.) tries to imagine a frontier society in which women held the power and made the life-or-death decisions.

The series, which stars Cara Gee, Melissa Farman, Tattiawna Jones and Aaron Poole, is set in 1869 in a tiny town astride the Alberta/Montana border. After a raid by a ruthless bunch of bandits leaves most of the men dead, it's up to the women to regroup, refocus and take charge of what's left of their settlement.

Despite an effects-laden theme-and-credits sequence that clearly seeks comparison to the moody starts of True Blood and Justified, what follows simply doesn't live up to the opening teaser's promise.

Strange Empire looks great, thanks to nice work by its set-design and costume departments, but its story is muddled and often incomprehensible.

The bad guys are bad -- like, really bad, murderously bad -- but whenever a strong-willed woman makes a stand, she somehow avoids getting shot or lynched. And the female characters are either standard-issue western stereotypes -- buxom, painted whores or purse-lipped school-marm-ish types -- or so wildly fictitious that they aren't believable.

Simply put, a period drama that isn't credible has little chance of being compelling.

It's too bad, because there's an idea in here somewhere that's worth exploring. Strange Empire just isn't the way to do it.

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @BradOswald

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Brad Oswald

Brad Oswald
Perspectives editor

After three decades spent writing stories, columns and opinion pieces about television, comedy and other pop-culture topics in the paper’s entertainment section, Brad Oswald shifted his focus to the deep-thoughts portion of the Free Press’s daily operation.