×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Flesh and Bone’

With:

Ben Daniels, Sarah Hay, Emily Tyra, Josh Helman, Damon Herriman, Irina Dvorovenko, Raychel Diane Weiner, Tina Benko, Sascha Radetsky, Karell Williams, Patrick Page.

Flesh and Bone’s” greatest accomplishment may lie in its casting: Most of the ballet drama’s core actors are gifted dancers, and the scenes of performance and practice are among the show’s high points. Unfortunately those pleasurable moments aren’t as plentiful as one might hope. As it attempts to show the grit and determination required to make it as a top-flight diva, the show makes long detours into grim, even bleak territory, all of which have the cumulative effect of crushing the story’s momentum.

There’s no rule that ballerina dramas have to be light, and it’s to “Flesh’s” credit that it tries to paint a realistic portrait of the hefty sacrifices required of committed dancers. Yet as the story of aspiring ballet star Claire Robbins unfolds, it only intermittently lifts off. Sarah Hay, who takes on the mentally and physically taxing role of Claire, is to be credited for her obvious determination and exceptional dancing. But the writing from “Breaking Bad” veteran Moira Walley-Beckett makes the character so opaque that it’s difficult to be drawn into Claire’s story, especially in the early episodes, in which various story threads only occasionally cohere into a compelling whole. 

The show’s early episodes are bogged down by a plot involving Claire’s troubled brother, who is even less forthcoming and also far less interesting than his talented sibling. Scenes featuring Ben Daniels as Paul Grayson, the imperious creative director of a New York ballet troupe that Claire joins, on the other hand, pulse with energy, given that Daniels occupies the screen as masterfully as a prima ballerina holds center stage. The role of Grayson offers operatic possibilities, and Daniels knows how to take advantage of all of them. Still, he is one more grimly determined character in a roster of players who all appear to be unhappy or unsatisfied almost all the time, and the story of a Balanchine-like guru turning a young dancer into his puppet has familiar contours. 

Damon Herriman, who was always a treat on “Justified,” plays a homeless man who befriends the guarded Claire, but it takes quite a long time for any of the supporting characters to make much more than a glancing impression. In early episodes, once it establishes that ballet dancers smoke, take drugs and have sex, “Flesh and Bone” doesn’t do much with the majority of Claire’s fellow dancers, focusing instead on a leaden and increasingly dominant story about how Claire’s past is sabotaging her present.

“Flesh and Bone” presents a lived-in world in which ballet dancers refer to the rehearsal studio as “the shark tank.” It’s an apt description, given the rivalries and backstabbing that goes on in that room (and away from it). If only “Flesh and Bone’s” sharks were more complicated and charismatic, this program would land with greater force.

TV Review: 'Flesh and Bone'

Miniseries; Starz, Sun. Nov. 8, 8 p.m.

Production:

Filmed in New York for Starz.

Crew:

Executive producers, Moira Walley-Beckett, Lawrence Bender, John Melfi, Kevin Kelly Brown; supervising producers, Adam Rapp, David Wiener, Jami O’Brien; producer, Donna E. Bloom; director, David Michod; writer, Walley-Beckett; camera, Adam Arkapaw; production designer, Henry Dunn; costume design; Tom Broecker; choreography, Ethan Stiefel; music, Dave Porter; casting, Bernard Telsey, Tiffany Little Canfield, Conrad Woolfe. 60 MIN.

Cast:

Ben Daniels, Sarah Hay, Emily Tyra, Josh Helman, Damon Herriman, Irina Dvorovenko, Raychel Diane Weiner, Tina Benko, Sascha Radetsky, Karell Williams, Patrick Page.

More TV

  • Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith

    Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith Dies at 78

    Walt Disney Archives founder Dave Smith, the historian who spent 40 years cataloging and preserving the company’s legacy of entertainment and innovation, died Friday in Burbank, Calif. He was 78. Smith served as Disney’s chief archivist from 1970 to 2010. He was named a Disney Legend in 2007 and served as a consultant to the [...]

  • TV Writer Christopher Knopf, Former WGA

    TV Writer Christopher Knopf, Former WGA West President, Dies at 91

    Prolific Emmy-nominated television writer Christopher Edwin Knopf, former president of the Writers Guild of America West, died in his sleep of congestive heart failure on Feb. 13. He was 91. Knopf was born in New York and attended UCLA, leaving during his senior year to join the Air Force during World War II. He finished [...]

  • Jussie Smollett The Black AIDS Insitute

    Jussie Smollett Case: Two Suspects Released Without Charges as New Evidence Emerges

    After two days of questioning, the Chicago Police Department announced Friday evening that it has released two suspects in the Jussie Smollett case without filing charges. Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said that detectives had developed new information in the case. Police no longer consider the men to be suspects. “Due to new evidence as a [...]

  • GOTHAM: L-R: Guest star Cameron Monaghan

    TV News Roundup: Fox Drops 'Gotham' Final Season Trailer (Watch)

    In today’s TV news roundup, Fox released a new trailer for an upcoming episode of “Gotham” and Disney has announced the cast for its upcoming “High School Musical” series.  FIRST LOOKS More Reviews Sundance Film Review: Stephen K. Bannon in 'The Brink' Film Review: 'Great Bear Rainforest' Showtime released a new trailer and the official [...]

  • Chris Rock

    Chris Rock to Direct Kenan Thompson Comedy Pilot at NBC

    Chris Rock has come onboard to direct the NBC single-cam comedy pilot “Saving Kenan,” Variety has learned. Rock will also executive produce the pilot, which stars “SNL” mainstay Kenan Thompson. Thompson will play a newly widowed dad determined to be everything for his kids while begrudgingly letting his persistent father-in-law become more involved in their lives [...]

  • Peak TV Saturation TV Placeholder

    Apollo Global Management Buys Majority Stake in Cox TV Stations

    Private equity giant Apollo Global Management has cut a deal with Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises to buy a majority stake in Cox’s 13 TV stations as well as three newspapers and a handful of radio stations in Ohio. Apollo has been in the hunt for broadcast TV stations for some time. Cox’s station group, which includes [...]

  • Ken Jeong TV Take Podcast

    Listen: Ken Jeong on His Return to Stand-Up and New Netflix Special

    Welcome to “TV Take,” Variety’s television podcast. In this week’s episode, Variety’s executive editor of TV, Daniel Holloway, talks with Ken Jeong about his Netflix comedy special, “Ken Jeong: You Complete Me, Ho,” and being a judge on Fox’s “The Masked Singer.“ Jeong started working on his new standup act after ABC canceled his show “Dr. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content