ABC’s “Blood and Oil” was one of several new series of the 2015-2016 season to see a showrunner depart due to “creative differences” before premiering. Having now twice seen the pilot, I’m not surprised.
Young, beautiful, earnest (and white, it goes without saying) couple Billy (
Simultaneously, oil billionaire Hap Briggs (
The Briggs and the LeFevers eventually connect, of course, thanks to a hot tip Cody passes on to Billy that leads to some audacious economic choices on his part, which leave Cody pissed yet again. And though Hap says that Billy’s ballsy maneuvering reminds him of himself, watching old pros Johnson and Valleta sitting across a glossy dining room table from callow youths Crawford and Rittenhouse is jarring. Both Johnson and Valleta recognize the script for what it needs–a quirked eyebrow here, a glower held a bit longer than usual there–and tip the story in their favor as the down-and-dirty version of Frank and Claire Underwood. Crawford and Rittenhouse are so busy trawling for sympathy that they barely register. And Foster never pops in the pilot the way, say, Josh Henderson did on TNT’s recent “Dallas” reboot, which was overseen by departed “Blood and Oil” showrunner
Whereas Cidre had a rich history to draw upon for the older characters on “Dallas,” in the pilot Hap Briggs feels like nothing but a pale, decades-old carbon of J.R. Ewing. Does “Blood and Oil” want to be a series about overcoming adversity in pursuit of the American dream? Or does ABC want another melodrama about fights, feuds, and egos, set against a backdrop of natural beauty while foregrounding a young, sexy cast? That question isn’t answered in the pilot, but either answer can be found almost anywhere else on TV these days. A better question is this: We’ve already had two installments of “Dallas”; does America need an ersatz third?
“Blood & Oil” premieres Sunday, Sept. 27 at 9 p.m. on ABC.