×

TV Review: ‘Guilt’

With:
Billy Zane, Daisy Head, Emily Tremaine, Cristian Solimeno, Anthony Stewart Head, Naomi Ryan, Kevin Ryan, Simona Brown, Zachary Fall, Sam Cassidy

Summer’s the right time for a potboiler that involves pretty people, murder, and the English aristocracy, but the London-set “Guilt” never quite knits an array of reasonably promising elements into a watchable warm-weather melodrama.

The biggest shame is that it doesn’t make better use of a couple of key cast members — Anthony Stewart Head (best known for playing Giles on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), and the ubiquitous Billy Zane. Head, who has been absent too long from American TV screens, here plays the rich father of Grace (Daisy Head, the actor’s daughter), an American student suspected of the murder of her hard-partying flatmate, Molly. Head is usually able to enliven even flatly written roles, but his entitled character in “Guilt” is tediously one-dimensional and nowhere near the charming rake the show clearly intends him to be.

The person having the most fun on screen, despite the plodding pace, is Zane, who plays a deliciously shady lawyer hired to defend Grace, who quickly becomes a target of the U.K. tabloids. (And speaking of tabloids, the fictional storyline here recalls certain elements of the case of Amanda Knox, an American in Italy who became tangled up in a lengthy and convoluted Italian murder case.) Unfortunately, Zane can’t rescue the entire production, which follows many of the dictums of the ABC/Freeform soap-opera formula — multicultural cast, choppy editing, and pop music on the soundtrack — but ends up recalling the rote superficiality of lesser ripped-from-the-headlines “Law and Order” episodes.

Not that “Guilt” needs to aspire to follow in the footsteps of “The Good Wife,” let alone the cerebral “Rectify.” It’s clearly going for a slicker, soapier vibe, and there’s a lot to like about that kind of flashy, lawyer-adjacent drama. “Scandal,” the best current exemplar of this genre, has been able to wring a great deal of entertaining melodrama from an array of educated, good-looking characters who’ve committed a number of murders on the road to power.

“Guilt” isn’t about power players per se, but it fails to deliver on a number of important fronts. Its characters are predictably written, the dialogue is average at best, and Grace in particular does so many dumb things that it’s hard to care about what happens to her. Grace’s lawyer sister, Natalie (Emily Tremaine), jets over from Boston to help defend her, but while both actresses are competent in their respective roles, neither character makes much of an impression.

Given that so much of the show is half-baked, the introduction of a high-end brothel with an “Eyes Wide Shut” vibe just comes across as silly, not sexy. “Guilt” methodically presents viewers with a group of characters who may have murdered Grace’s unlucky flatmate — and one of the suspects, it is hinted, is a member of Britain’s royal family. But in its first two episodes, it fails to give them or their predicaments the kind of frothy, propulsive energy a good murder-driven soap needs.

If anything, “Guilt” makes one yearn for the day that the television industry will come up with a smartly written, light-on-its-feet legal thriller starring the lively and watchable Zane. The fact that it hasn’t done so yet is a much more compelling mystery than anything that occurs here.

TV Review: 'Guilt'

(Series; Freeform, Mon. June 13, 9 p.m.)

Production:

Filmed in London by Sea to Sky Entertainment (the joint venture between Lionsgate Television and Thunderbird Films) and BV Family Prods. in association with Freeform.

Crew:

Executive producers, Kathryn Price, Nichole Millard, Todd Slavkin, Darren Swimmer, Stephen McPherson, Gary Fleder, Larry Shaw; director, Fleder; writers, Price, Millard; camera, Theo Van de Sande; editors, Jason Hellmann, Kevin Hale; production designer, Laszlo Rajk; casting, Kelly Valentine Hendry, Victor Jenkins, Vicki Thomson; music, Daniel Licht. 60 MIN.

Cast: Billy Zane, Daisy Head, Emily Tremaine, Cristian Solimeno, Anthony Stewart Head, Naomi Ryan, Kevin Ryan, Simona Brown, Zachary Fall, Sam Cassidy

More TV

  • Beartown HBO

    HBO’s 'Beartown' Among 50 Nordic Sneak Peeks at Göteborg’s TV Drama Vision

    For the first time ever, a record number of 13 talent scouts -including U.S. reps from Wiip, CAA, Gersh- will set foot at Göteborg’s sold-out Nordic TV Drama Vision (Jan.29-30), where around 50 series in progress and in development will play to 420 industry delegates. “This is the first time ever we have such a [...]

  • BBC ITV BritBox Streaming

    BritBox U.K. Taps Will Harrison as Managing Director

    Streamer BritBox has appointed Will Harrison as managing director for the U.K. Harrison comes to the service from media investment group Ingenious Media, where he was managing director. An industry veteran, he has had previous stints at Warner Bros., HBO, Disney, A+E Television and Turner Broadcasting. His duties will include profit and loss responsibility, staff [...]

  • "La casa de papel" "Money Heist"

    U.S., Mexico Are Top Destinations for Spanish TV Dramas

    Having conquered the global SVOD market with large hits such as “La casa de papel” (“Money Heist”) and “Elite,” Spanish dramas continued gaining ground in 2019. The international presence of Spanish fiction was driven by period dramas and thrillers, as its most demanded TV genres. By territories, Mexico and the U.S. were the top destinies [...]

  • Two Rivers Media Buys Out Parent

    Two Rivers Media Buys Out Parent Kew Media Group's Stake In Business

    Two Rivers Media has bought out parent group Kew Media Group’s minority stake in the business. Formed by former STV Productions head Alan Clements in January 2019, the production outfit behind Channel 5’s recent “Susan Hill’s Ghost Story” launched with the backing of Kew, Noble Grossart Investments and Channel 4’s Indie Growth Fund. Noble Grossart [...]

  • The New York Times Building NYC

    The New York Times' Made-for-TV Endorsement Missed the Mark (Column)

    At some point during the New York Times’s special endorsement episode of its branded series “The Weekly,” the paper’s editorial board muses on the manner in which Donald Trump has changed how we envision what a potential president could look like. After the brief and energetic snippet we’re shown of a visit from candidate Andrew [...]

  • Jennifer Aniston accepts the award for

    SAG Awards: Jennifer Aniston Lands Apple TV Plus Its First Major Hollywood Win

    Apple TV Plus is on the board. The new streaming service won its first major Hollywood honor on Sunday, as “The Morning Show” star Jennifer Aniston picked up a SAG Award for best female actor in a drama. The win capped a busy Sunday for the streaming service, which held its first-ever presentation at the [...]

  • Curb Your Enthusiasm

    'Curb Your Enthusiasm' Music: How the Italian Tuba March Found Its Way to Larry David

    When “Curb Your Enthusiasm” returns for its much-anticipated 10th season it does so with it a musical theme that’s a prime example of recognizable sonic branding and has become synonymous with comedy in our complicated times: “Frolic” by composer Luciano Michelini. But surprisingly, this comic march for tuba, mandolin and piano wasn’t specifically written for [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content