Tom Clyde: Blood and Oil, with a side of crow
October 2, 2015
There is an actual TV show being made out at the future Target store. I’m not quite ready to eat crow yet, but have to admit that the crow is defrosting. The future Target store is the present home of ABC’s new series, "Blood & Oil." It’s being shot at the studio and on locations all over Summit County, from Main Street to my hay fields and barns. Several neighbors’ houses have been used as locations for upcoming episodes. The feedlot has become the base camp for anything out in the neighborhood. It’s been fascinating to watch it all happen.
The big premiere was last Sunday night. That pilot episode was shot a year ago, mostly in Weber and Morgan counties, so there wasn’t much that looked all that familiar in it. Starting with tomorrow’s episode, we will start seeing things that look very close to home.
The pilot had something for everybody. There were sex scenes as steamy as network can get. The protagonists arrive in Rock Springs (not Rock Springs, Wyoming — this is set in the mountainous part of North Dakota) penniless. Their plan to open three Laundromats was washed up when they roll their truck, destroying three machines. Whatever arrangement they had on the rest of the Laundromat equipment is never explained, but the loss of those four was enough to terminate the whole plan.
So they move into the rail yard like hobos, meet a nice Jamaican family who wants to open a barbecue, score a trailer, get pregnant, leverage a credit card charge into $100,000 which buys the key piece of property for accessing the world’s richest oil field. That turns into a $1 million dollar deal. They fund the barbecue place. All in about 48 hours. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the evil oil baron disowns his ne’er-do-well son, who then turns to crime, things blow up, and oil is spilled. There is also a bit of political skullduggery when the state Oil Commissioner, who happens to be Mormon for some reason, reveals the contents of a secret report on where the oil is to the oil baron’s seductress trophy wife, who has promised to finance his campaign for governor so he can approve construction of a temple in North Dakota. That was all before the first commercial break. It continues on this breathless pace for the rest of the hour. It was exhausting.
The plot has more twists in it than a roll of barbed wire. I’m assuming that once the show is into the regular episodes the pace will slow down to something more manageable. Overall, the cast seemed strong, and the characters engaging even if the plot is implausible. It’s not Shakespeare, but for prime time TV, I think it will make it.
Following "Blood & Oil" was a show about FBI agents called "Quantico," after their training campus. This show had become controversial because it contained a scene in a locker room where one agent, who happens to be Mormon, takes his clothes off to reveal a quick flash of his special underwear. It was on screen for less time than Janet Jackson’s nipple, but people were deeply offended at the sacrilege. It was completely gratuitous, and the character ends up dead before the second commercial. But the local station manager felt the need to come on the air and apologize in advance of the show.
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So in the space of about an hour on prime time, two new ABC shows had included two rather pointed Mormon references, one displaying on TV what is not usually displayed anywhere, and the other impugning the integrity of the Mormon Oil Commissioner, who we are led to believe would do anything to facilitate building a temple in North Dakota — never mind that there has been one in Bismark since 1999. Of course, the Utah Legislature was watching, and all of them wanted to know how they could get a piece of the action.
Of the two references, it’s the underwear flash that become a big deal. The bribery sub-sub-plot, which was set up in a way that suggests that bribery is a defining characteristic of Mormons, the way we used to associate thrift with the Scotts, has received little comment. Neither added much substance, but of the two, the one that I felt was more deserving of umbrage wasn’t the long-range, nano-second, shot of the garments. But what do I know.
Anyway, the number of people involved in making "Blood & Oil" is surprisingly large. They pretty well fill a five-acre field at my place with semis, trailers for dressing rooms, deluxe porta-potties, catering services, and on and on. They are spending some significant money locally. Who knows, maybe this is better than a Target store after all.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.