TV Review: ‘Blood & Oil’

Don Johnson, Chace Crawford, Rebecca Rittenhouse, Amber Valletta, Scott Michael Foster, Adan Canto, India de Beaufort, Delroy Lindo

In a sense, “Blood & Oil” is an expanded version of that “Twilight Zone” episode with William Shatner, where he and his wife have their car break down in a small town. Except the little devil coaxing the couple into staying here is the lure of big money, in the form of Don Johnson’s freewheeling oil baron, and a patchwork North Dakota boomtown that has sprung up around its pursuit. After that, this is just another attempt to update “Dallas,” meaning there will be blood and oil, yes, but also sex and a lot of jockeying for power.

The aforementioned couple, model-pretty newlyweds Billy (Chace Crawford) and Cody Lefever (Rebecca Rittenhouse), are actually driving merchandise through the state as part of a separate moneymaking scheme when their truck takes a “Fast & Furious”-worthy header. That leaves them scrounging for cash, receiving kindness from people in the tent city that has sprouted, and eventually staggering into a bar — overseen by the lovely Jules (India de Beaufort) — that could easily double as the set for “Coyote Ugly 2.”

Soon enough, though, they meet Johnson’s Hap Brings, a tough, self-made sort — the kind who can get away with a frat-boy name even in his later years — who is instantly drawn to Billy’s ambition and drive. “You got some brass ones on you, don’t you son?” he drawls as Billy seeks to engineer his way into a high-stakes deal.

By contrast, Hap is utterly disappointed by his own son, Wick (Scott Michael Foster), who exhibits a strong sense of rich-kid entitlement that rubs dad the wrong way. “You think I’m just gonna toss you the keys to the kingdom?” Hap snarls, setting up an ostensible struggle between his devotion to blood and to Billy, who he clearly sees as a younger version of himself.

Alas, pretty much everything in “Blood & Oil,” created by Josh Pate and Rodes Fishburne, has that kind of on-the-nose quality, with nary a surprise in the first hour. That includes a rather lousy cliffhanger, clearly designed to draw viewers further into the run, but which augers a warning of hackneyed plotting. (The series also has exhibited its share of behind-the-scenes drama in terms of the producers who will be running it.)

Admittedly, ABC has done pretty well, if not always struck black gold, with this genre of soap, and Johnson has gracefully aged into the patriarch role. The negatives would be the absence, at first blush, of another character with much breakout potential, although keep an eye on “Revenge” alum Amber Valletta as Hap’s equally steely wife.

Wealth and the allure of it have always been a fertile backdrop, including the various reality TV shows currently chronicling macho get-rich-quick endeavors, but creatively speaking, “Blood & Oil” doesn’t exactly tap into the mother lode. And initially, anyway, the program hasn’t taken to heart the homespun wisdom that Hap would surely dispense — namely, go big, or go home.

TV Review: 'Blood & Oil'

(Series; ABC, Sun. Sept. 27, 9 p.m.)

Production: Filmed in Utah by ABC Signature Studios.

Crew: Executive producers, Josh Pate, Jon Harmon Feldman, Jonas Pate, Tony Krantz, Don Johnson, Robert Sertner; co-executive producer, Rodes Fishburne; producers, Louis G. Friedman, Drew Comins; director, Jonas Pate; writers, Josh Pate, Fishburne; camera, Shelly Johnson; production designer, Mark Hutman; editor, Jennifer Van Goethem; music, Mark Isham; casting, Junie Lowry-Johnson, Libby Goldstein. 60 MIN.

Cast: Don Johnson, Chace Crawford, Rebecca Rittenhouse, Amber Valletta, Scott Michael Foster, Adan Canto, India de Beaufort, Delroy Lindo

More TV

  • Jussie Smollett

    Jussie Smollett Seeks to Stop Appointment of Special Prosecutor

    Jussie Smollett’s lawyers filed a motion on Friday to overturn the appointment of a special prosecutor in his hate crime hoax case, arguing the appointment would expose the “Empire” actor to double jeopardy. Smollett is seeking to reverse an order issued last month by Judge Michael Toomin, who faulted Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx [...]

  • Jimmy Pitaro ESPN

    Dan Le Batard Tests ESPN's - and Jimmy Pitaro's - No-Politics Policy

    Perhaps someone didn’t get the memo. Ever since Jimmy Pitaro took the helm of ESPN in early 2018, employees at the Walt Disney-owned sports-media juggernaut were made aware of at least one thing: The new boss didn’t want sportscasters yakking it up about politics any longer. But Dan Le Batard, the popular radio and TV [...]

  • Rick Rubin Spotify Secret Genius Awards,

    Seven Things We Learned About 'Shangri-La' and Rick Rubin from Showtime's Series

    Showtime’s documentary series “Shangri-La” insists it is not a biographical documentary on uber-producer Rick Rubin, and it’s not meant as a four-hour advertisement for Rubin’s legendary Malibu studio, after which the four-part series is named … but it feels like a little bit of both those things. “Shangri-La” is primarily filmed at the studio where [...]

  • Elaine Paul - Amazon Studios

    Elaine Paul Exits as Hulu CFO to Join Amazon Studios

    Elaine Paul has departed Hulu after nearly six years as chief financial officer to join Amazon Studios as CFO/VP of finance. She started at the ecommerce company’s studio division on July 15, reporting to Dan Jedda, VP of digital, advertising and corporate development finance for Amazon, a company rep said. Paul’s move to Amazon, first [...]

  • Major Expansion Planned at Belfast Harbour

    Major Expansion Planned at Belfast Harbour Studios, Home of ‘Krypton’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Belfast Harbour Studios in Northern Ireland, where the Syfy series “Krypton” is shot, is set for a major expansion. The Warner Horizon-produced series has occupied the full site, which currently has two stages, since it opened in 2017. The landowners had signaled that they wanted to expand, and Variety has learned that plans for the [...]

  • Rola-Bauer-and-Tim-Halkin

    Bauer, Halkin Ride in Tandem

    ROLA BAUERExecutive managing director, Studiocanal TV; managing director, Tandem Productions “I simply wanted to continue creating great stories,” Bauer says about why she resigned as exec VP of international fiction at Germany’s ProSieben and founded Tandem. The Canadian had worked at Alliance Intl. in Paris before moving to ProSieben. “I loved doing it from a [...]

  • Shadowplay stars

    Tandem's Berlin-Set ‘Shadowplay’ Goes for Edge

    Period dramas rarely break the fourth wall, but for Mans Marlind, the creator-writer-director of Tandem’s “Shadowlands,” “we don’t have to be traditional. Especially with period, you need to be even more modern, to avoid the stiffness of costume drama,” he says. “Television’s development [is] creating audiences that are smarter, meaning we can be more and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content