Blood & Oil producers have no idea what they’re talking about and it’s delightful
When the pilot of a TV show includes two close-call car accidents, a poached white moose and a pregnancy test, you have to wonder if ABC has a hit on its hands. Throw in Don Johnson as an oil tycoon with a buffalo ranch and a rebellious son who isn’t living up to the family name and it may just be television gold, depending on your standards.
If you’re looking for an accurate portrayal of life when the Bakken was booming, your search continues.
But if your taste in TV shows runs to the dramatic and you’re only looking to be entertained, Blood & Oil will (possibly) deliver. This is Dallas for a new generation, or so I’ve read. (Yes, I’m too young to be familiar with Dallas, thanks for noticing.)
The show stars Chace Crawford, of Gossip Girl fame, and newcomer Rebecca Rittenhouse as newlyweds on their way to North Dakota to open a laundromat and (spoiler alert) their poorly planned adventure goes awry in the first 15 seconds. Crawford’s developed some sort of Southern-ish accent that’s not quite working and recites fun phrases like “We screwed the pooch.” I’m still not convinced he can act, but he’s so pretty that no one notices.
Don Johnson plays a tough-guy oil baron named Hap, which is right up his alley, and his wife is played by Amber Valetta. For those who may not know, she’s a supermodel, though probably best known for being inexplicably attracted to Kevin James in Hitch. The two portray an interesting but mostly just attractive couple. He bemoans the lack of ambition/talent/brains/etc. in his son; she arrives home on the jet with some insider info on untapped oil reserves, then puts the squeeze on an unsuspecting oil commissioner. It’s charming stuff.
While riddled with inaccuracies (I’ll get to those), a few things seemed nearly legitimate. The difficulty to find an affordable place to live in the Bakken region is spot-on. The newlywed newcomers stay in a makeshift campground with people they met five seconds ago, then look at a crappy little apartment listed for $2,000 a month before dropping some savings on a small RV instead.
The picked-over, understocked pharmacy with mile-long lines may or may not have been normal for the boom at its height, but I do believe even a desperate drugstore owner would still draw the line at hiring a pharmacy school dropout without a license. (Oops, spoiler alert again.)
Several incidents show, in high drama with poor dialogue, that crime skyrocketed during the boom. A fight between some drunk and disorderly citizens over that poached white moose? Yes, please.
The worst offenses are only standing out to those who know better, not the average ABC viewer. I’ve seen numerous complaints. No one from North Dakota is impressed.
There is a mad scramble to purchase an easement property in order to access land that is rumored to hold those untapped oil reserves. High-stakes gambling of everyone’s future and life-savings ensues. No one really mentions mineral rights or any regulations, just the land. THEY NEED THE LAND. Also, those oil reserves … larger than the oil deposit in Saudi Arabia? Not likely.
Bakken crude itself is misrepresented. The first episode ends (SPOILER AL- does anyone care at this point?) with two guys rolling around fighting in a puddle of crude that looks more like tar than anything coming out of the ground in North Dakota. But hey, the goal is excitement and ratings, not accuracy.
The choice of scenery is where most of the backlash is concentrated. Gorgeous snow-capped mountains are the backdrop of the billionaire’s ranch, the town, and pretty much every outdoor scene. Clearly no one bothered to check out North Dakota, and why would they when Utah offers a tax break for filming and those mountains!
It remains to be seen whether the self-proclaimed “Best New Drama of 2015” stays on the air. But you can be sure I’ll maybe be trying to stream the second episode some time in the next week to see if it gets any better.