Amber Valletta isn’t the only connection ABC’s new dramatic series Blood & Oil has to the network’s Revenge which ended its run after four seasons. Both shows are part of the oft-disparaged primetime soap opera genre and both shows feature a dysfunctional wealthy family. Revenge had a Sunday night timeslot, and Blood & Oil is set to air on Sundays beginning on September 27, 2015 at 9pm ET/PT. Sundays have always been a popular nesting place for nighttime soaps, with Dallas leading the pack as the series all dramas of this ilk hope to live up to ratings-wise. And based solely on the series’ pilot, Blood & Oil has enough of a Dallas vibe to it that it’s possible ABC has landed on a new winning formula of big oil money, small town intrigue, and Don Johnson.
The show recently underwent a change in showrunner that could have signaled its death before it even had a chance to catch on with viewers. Fortunately, the behind-the-scenes maneuvering doesn’t seem to have adversely affected the product on screen. Sure, Blood & Oil feels a bit ’80s-ish but the cast – led by Johnson and Valletta and featuring Chace Crawford and Rebecca Rittenhouse – brings this deja vu-ish story to life. Johnson in particular feels right at home as Hap Briggs, the patriarch of a wealthy oil family who has a strong work ethic and little tolerance for anyone who isn’t willing to work hard to earn a living. Unfortunately, Hap’s son Wick (Scott Michael Foster) doesn’t share his father’s desire to live an honorable life. Wick’s not the son Hap would have chosen and their relationship becomes even more dysfunctional with the arrival of Billy LeFever (Crawford) and his new bride, Cody (Rittenhouse).
Billy and Cody wanted in on the oil boom in North Dakota but their plan was derailed before they even had a chance to put in place. Their dream of opening a coin-operated laundromat came crashing (literally) to an end and they were forced to try and find jobs in Rock Springs, North Dakota where they get off on the wrong foot with Wick. Wick’s strained relationship with his father is pushed to the breaking point when he angers the local Native Americans, putting a deal Hap was attempting to work in jeopardy. As a way to teach his son the family business from the ground up he sends Wick off to work on an oil rig. Wick also screws that up and is basically disinherited as Hap is unable to find a way to reach his incorrigible, privileged son.
Enter Billy, who it turns out is like the son Hap always wished for. He’s eager to learn the oil business, smart on his feet, and willing to do what it takes to make big bucks and take care of his friends and family.
The pilot also introduces Hap’s second wife and Wick’s stepmother, Darla (Valletta). Darla’s very business savvy and is just as adept at putting together deals as Hap. They’re a good team, something Wick’s jealous of and resentful about. Keston John and Yaani King play a Nigerian couple who help out Billy and Cody when they’re in need of a place to stay, offering food, shelter, and friendship to the handsome couple. Delroy Lindo puts in the briefest of appearances as the town sheriff, and India de Beaufort is also introduced as the owner of a bar who has her fingers in a lot of pots.
Blood & Oil isn’t nearly as titillating as Dallas, Knots Landing, or Revenge, or maybe it’s just the pilot that took a different approach to laying out the story and the series will ultimately play out along the line of its predecessors. There’s certainly a wealth of pretty people to pair up so perhaps romantic pairings, back-stabbings, and other assorted tried and true primetime soap tropes will come into play in upcoming episodes.
Overall, the pilot seemed to have played it safe and even bad boy Wick doesn’t come across as wicked as you’d expect (or want). It’s possible the tone and approach will change dramatically moving forward with a new showrunner, and that Blood & Oil will feel less like a throwback and more contemporary. Given the current primetime lineup across the networks, Blood & Oil has to get grittier and develop an edge in order to survive.
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