Season two of the badly titled comedy “Survivor’s Remorse” checks in with the Calloway family as son Cam, rising basketball star, begins his job with a fictional Atlanta-based team. Well-paced and well written, the show is about a basketball player but it has very little to do with basketball. It is a sharp and funny commentary on the choices a family makes within the context of fame.
Season one of the series was about dealing with the guilt that comes from making it (hence the title). Season two explores the dynamics of keeping it and the decisions Cam and his family must now make to balance his personal and professional responsibilities.
Partially based on the life of LeBron James, who serves as executive producer along with his business partner Maverick Carter, the series focuses on family rather than sports. Cam’s (Jesse Usher) career is a backdrop to the central themes and this season they concern how the Calloways handle situations in light of Cam’s celebrity. A crisis in a family always involves issues of how they could, should and do handle things. The show wants to add to this dynamic by looking at how a family who is now in the public eye deals with these choices.
The first episode of season two kicks things off with Cam butting heads with team owner Jimmy Flaherty. Cam wants Flaherty to understand the difference between owning the team he plays for and owning his time. Flaherty doesn’t understand why Cam can’t see how his professional obligations include more than showing up for practice. At the heart of their argument is Cam’s refusal to attend a team event honoring Nelson Mandela after enduring a previous event for wealthy fans held at a bowling alley. Their disagreement also has racial undertones that suggest the series isn’t afraid to tackle tough themes.
The Calloways — mom Cassie (Tichina Arnold), sister Mary “M-Chuck” Charles (Erica Ash), uncle Julius (Mike Epps), cousin Reggie (RonReaco Lee) and his wife Missy (Teyonah Parris) — weigh-in on Cam’s decision with some funny lines but it’s Reggie who recalls the central idea from season one. He tells Cam: “You’re the guy who, once we signed this big contract, you compared us to survivors of a shipwreck, obligated to help everybody we know to pay back the universe for all of our hard-earned blessings, you remember that? Now I’m trying to reconcile that guy with this guy.”
Cam’s change, from signing the big contract to learning to fulfill that contract and all the subtleties that go along with it, is a promising and interesting idea, particularly within the family sitcom genre. Strong performances from the cast, particularly Epps as uncle Julius, balance the more serious elements with humor.
“Survivor’s Remorse” doesn’t have the audience of HBO’s “Ballers,” to which it has lately been compared but it deserves more recognition. It is, in its themes and writing, a superior show. Ignore the disastrous title and tune-in.
“Survivor’s Remorse” is on Saturdays at 9:30 p.m. EDT Starz.
Melissa Crawley is the author of “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television’s ‘The West Wing.’” She has a Ph.D. in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.