Strange Em­pire

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - GRAND OPENING ENTERTAINMENT -

Star­ring Cara Gee, Melissa Far­man, Tat­ti­awna Jones and Aaron Poole Mon­day at 9 p.m. CBC

out of five friend who has laid his hands on some po­ten­tially em­bar­rass­ing ar­ti­facts from the young bas­ket­ball star’s past. It’s raw, coarse-talk­ing, ma­turethemed 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. 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-and­cred­its 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.


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


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

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