Basketball, Biz Moves and Black Love: Saying a Premature Goodbye to ‘Survivor’s Remorse’
Survivor's Remorse ended it's four-year run this past Sunday (October 15) and the LeBron James-produced series rode off into the proverbial sunset without much fanfare. After all, the STARZ sitcom never had the kind of popularity Power, the network's flagship show, has consistently enjoyed. But for its cult of devotees, it was sad to see this ambitious little series fade without, at the very least, a proper sendoff.
The premise of Survivor's Remorse was fairly straightforward: a young NBA star moves to Atlanta with his motley crue of family members. Part fish-out-of-water comedy, part family drama; Survivor's was supposed to be the story of Cam Calloway, Jesse T. Usher's All-Star hooper—with Mike Epps as Uncle Junior there to provide the scene-stealing and the slapstick—at least in the first two seasons.
Over the course of it's run, however, Survivor's Remorse revealed itself to be more about the nuances of being Black and elite in a town that fawns over the Black elite. With the most chic and trendy version of Atlanta as a backdrop, the Calloways navigated everything from country club culture to private investing, usually revealing some tricky details involving the specifics of being Black and wealthy.
The show's heart and soul was the relationship between Reggie and Missy Vaughn. The photogenic Black couple sat at the emotional core of Survivor's Remorse; from Missy's Season Two decision to "go natural," to a crisis of money management in Season Four when Reggie needs a loan to get a business idea off the ground—actors Teyonah Parris and Ronreaco Lee's easy chemistry made the sometimes overly-verbose dialogue pop with sincerity and their conversations tended to be the show's most revealing.
The other secret weapon of Survivor's Remorse was veteran TV star Tichina Arnold. For decades, Arnold's combination of round-the-way realness and impeccable comedic timing has served her well, and as family matriarch Cassie Calloway, she got to indulge in some of the most hilariously foul-mouthed monologues on the show. But ultimately, Arnold became the linchpin of the cast; the established star who kept everything centered. We may not have had that kind of mother, but we all know a Cassie.
Survivor's Remorse wasn't without flaws: the show's weakest moments tended to be attempts at the broadest kind of humor or shock tactics (a stoned Cam talking to a doll, M-Chuck—played by Erica Ash—defecating on a grave in retribution for a past evil); it never fully recovered from Epps' departure following Season Two (though Robert Wu as Cassie's boyfriend Da Chen Bao was certainly a welcome addition), and Season Four's "Feel Free to Comment" clumsily tackled culture wars and Black respectability in a way that shortchanged both topics. But it's strengths were far greater than its weaknesses.
The show's high point was "The Photoshoot," an episode that saw Missy managing a photo spread for Cam but ultimately choosing against going with a light-skinned Black model. The episode tackled the complexity of colorism in both mainstream media and the Black media with empathy and provided a stellar showcase for Parris (and for Dear White People star Logan Browning). It was an indicator of how good this show can be when it's firing on all cylinders.
Unlike HBO's old favorite Entourage or its current The Rock vehicle Ballers, this particular series wasn't preoccupied with the flossy and flashy lifestyle of a pro athlete or his hangers-on; this was essentially a show about a family. And that family's story was split between the rags-to-riches story of the immediate Calloways, and the upper middle class maneuvering of would-be Atlanta power couple Reggie and Missy. The final episode was disappointingly a cliffhanger that was designed to lead in to a Season Five we'll never get, and it did little to provide closure for any of the major storylines that had developed throughout Season Four. We won't ever know how this particular story ends—and that's unfortunate.
The end of Survivor's Remorse felt premature because this show seemed to finally figure out what it wanted to say; it had evolved into a sharp commentary on a world thats often presented in its shiniest and most superficial incarnation. With Cam Calloway and Co., we got something that was a little more ambitious. It's a shame we had to say goodbye so soon.
Watch the Trailer for the Series Finale of Survivor's Remorse