Starz’s latest series, taking over Outlander’s timeslot this week, is SURVIVOR’S REMORSE. It is the story of hugely successful basketball superstar Cam Calloway (Jesse T. Usher, Level Up) and his cousin, best friend, and manager Reggie Vaughn (RonReaco Lee, Let’s Stay Together). They are now living the big life, but cannot forget about where they came from, a rough neighborhood in which people are still struggling. How do you balance fame and fortune with helping out those who don’t have it? Can charity be misinterpreted?
It may not surprise you to learn that SURVIVOR’S REMORSE is inspired by (but not based on) the true story of LeBron James, who serves as a producer on the show. After all, Lebron’s rise to legend is memorable, and he’s still relevant on the court today. As an Ohioan, I’ve been hearing about him for quite a long time. It may, however, be unexpected to read that a major driving force and writer on the project is Mike O’Malley (Glee, Yes, Dear), a middle-aged white guy who is more known for his on-screen work than his writing talents. That could potentially change.
Whoever is making SURVIVOR’S REMORSE, though, isn’t nearly as important as how good the show is or isn’t. Happily, SURVIVOR’S REMORSE is terrific. An urban-influenced Entourage (which is not code for the skin color of the performers, which matters, but isn’t the main point), the characters are authentic and complex, and the story shows the influence of real people and events. We see how money can change a person and those around them, and we also see how different individuals choose to deal with that.
In the first episode, someone back in the old neighborhood happens upon some embarrassing material from Cam’s childhood and tries to extort the athlete. In the tapes and writings, Cam is shown being sexist and racist. This stuff shouldn’t matter because kids do dumb things and Cam never really felt the way it seems, but it does in modern society, where content can have a very long shelf life and spread rapidly. More importantly, how this guy relates to Cam and Reggie, whom remember him fondly and do want to help him out, is skewed by his pride and jealousy, so the situation is more volatile and interesting that it could be otherwise.
Cam and Reggie are best friends, but the money comes between them from time to time, too. Reggie is in charge of it and Cam wants to spend it. Whether Cam considers buying an Aston Martin with tricked out rims or paying for an aunt’s lap band surgery, there is frequently conflict between them about these things. But their strong love for each other overrides this, and at the end of the day, they are two very good guys who want to do the right thing and be smart.
They are surrounded by a colorful group that can be quite different from them, but each are interesting for their makeup. Sister M-Chuck (Erica Ash, MADtv) wants to lay women and spend money, irresponsible and along for the good time, and the guys include her willingly. Uncle Julius (Mike Epps, The Hangover) is also part of the clique, though sees less development in the pilot. Mouthy Cassie (Tichina Arnold, Everybody Hates Chris), Cam’s mom, is proud of her baby, and enjoys the lifestyle he buys her. Reggie’s wife, Missy (Teyonah Parris, Mad Men), isn’t happy being it Atlanta, no matter what their huge house looks like or how many luxuries Reggie throws at her. They are all ripe for further story.
SURVIVOR’S REMORSE is billed as a comedy, but that’s probably mostly because of its half hour running time. It is a comedy the way other pay-cable half hours shows are, in the vein of Entourage and Californication. There are laughs, but the show doesn’t seem to set out to deliver gags and one-liners. It’s more circumstance that come across as amusing, though still realistic, in their structure. It will run only six episodes in the first season, but hopefully will soon be filming more.
SURVIVOR’S REMORSE premieres this Saturday at 9 p.m. ET on Starz.