Tuesday, June 18, 2019

REVIEW: 'Ambitions' - Titus and Amara's Move to Atlanta Reunites Them with Stephanie in 'Friends & Lovers'

OWN's Ambitions - Episode 1.01 "Friends & Lovers"

Fish-out-of-water attorneys Amara and Titus Hughes adjust to new personal and professional challenges following their move to Atlanta, namely the ruthless Stephanie Carlisle Lancaster.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of OWN's Ambitions.

"Friends & Lovers" was written by Jamey Giddens and directed by Benny Boom

There is a fascinating show to be made that delicately weaves the intersection of race and politics in the south. This is not that show though. In fact, this premiere makes it seem like a broad soap opera that doesn't entirely know what it's doing. That tentativeness then transfers to all of the other departments who helped craft the final product. As such, it mostly just feels lackluster in a way where no one is all that excited about what they are doing. Robin Givens is certainly trying to do something different with her performance. She wants that after playing roles that were a little similar on Riverdale and The Fix. However, Stephanie Carlisle Lancaster mostly comes across as a character from a cliche Lifetime movie while she is constantly plotting the death of her husband and the takeover of her father's company. Everything about the plot feels so stilted. Every little piece of exposition absolutely drags. And there is a ton of it. The show also tries to use misdirection in order to better place the audience within the headspace of its main character. That amounts to two moments of manipulation in which it feels like Stephanie has walked in on someone who has overdosed while her husband then points a gun at her as well as her sexual fantasy of being with Titus once more. But it all feels so redundant, boring and stereotypical. It's as if the creative team thought that there needed to be more excitement and the best way to add that was in some soapy twists that could allow the cast to feel sexy. And yet, the show even struggles making those sex scenes seem all that passionate or exciting. It's such a weird tonal blend. The opening scene makes the clashing of tones apparent right away. It starts with Amara and Titus engaging in sensual foreplay. But then, it immediately shifts to a big argument that sets the stage of them trying to reconcile after an affair. The show feels the burden to explain things even when the characters are simply trying to enjoy some loving. That feels like hard work. It shouldn't be that apparent. That takes the audience out of the sequence immediately. It's more than just bad sexposition as well. It starts and stops in odd moments in order to get the message across. Plus, the show doesn't even establish its main premise in an engaging way. It's just a bunch of characters walking in and out of scenes saying their lines. It's hard for the viewer to connect with Evan being a schmuck even though Stephanie and her father Stephen say so repeatedly. Sure, that becomes a little clearer later on when he is so territorial and possessive of Stephanie in public. He wants her to remain in her place and not be too ambitious. And yet, that's not who she is. She is someone who believes she has to point the gun at her husband's head before he can do the same to her. That's insane. It comes from a completely different show than one that wants to have an honest conversation about political corruption and the harm being done by the opioid crisis. It's just a bunch of buzzwords thrown out with the audience having to do the heavy lifting with our own personal understanding of why these causes should be important and timely. Again, it all just feels connected together in a way that never works. It's always difficult to watch a show like this and write a review about its struggles. But it was just a script that needed a ton more work and oversight over the production to ensure that everything was connecting in a way that could actually build into a successful new show. As is, it will all be forgotten by tomorrow morning.