Since it was announced, Boom is one of the most, if not the most, intriguing pilot of the season. But before reading the script, I was not sure what it was really about, only that it looked original, ambitious and dead serious. Following the oily and soapy foodsteps of notorious Dallas, Boom is an old project that was set up at ABC a few years ago, then went to USA Network, before landing on ABC again this year and finally scoring a pilot order. It certainly deserved one: it is as ambitious as it looks, and as ambitious as the couple at the center of the show is. It is set in the real world, it deals with real issues, it’s about economics, tactics… And it has what it takes it to be a good entertaining TV series that doesn’t take its viewers for morons and which offers a little bit more than just fun. That being said, Boom may be a little too smart and intricate for its own good…
The script starts with facts about this incredible oil discovery that probably most of the people in the US or somewhere else in the world are not aware of. To sum up for you, The Bakken, that’s how it is called, is the biggest oil discovery in American history -bigger than Texas and as big as Saudi Arabia- which has triggered a geopolitical shift and an economic boom in North Dakota on a scale not seen since the 1849 California Gold Rush. According to The Economist, the city of Williston (where the show takes place) is the fastest growing small city in America, that will be the size of Dallas by 2030 if predictions are accurate. North Dakota’s unemployement rate is currently zero. Yes, 0%! A millionnaire is created each and every day in the Bakken. Crazy, right? The first thing that came to my mind was how come have I never heard about it (I probably don’t watch enough documentaries and don’t read enough newspapers) and how good a setting it is for a TV show.
The first scene is a car accident, a stylized one as it is described in the script, in the middle of nowhere with the beautiful backdrop of the Salt Lake City Area (where it is shot); one of the last scene is a big “Boom!” explosion that is meant to be impressively awesome, with oil pulsing from a rig. You also have a shoot-out in the streets of Williston in between, making the show look like a western for a few minutes. So the pilot is not just about people plotting against each others, especially if they are family members (and there are some) as in every good soap opera; it’s before anything else introducing us to a world where we have no landmarks, that is modern and retro at the same time, where there’s a very special atmosphere like nowhere else and where dangerous things are really happening. It’s disturbing but it feels good to break out from our comfort zone to discover something that feels new.
The show can also be very unsettling -and for some of us, crippling I fear- because of the characters we are introduced to, most of them being wicked and malicious, with an hidden agenda (and I hope the young cast will be able to meet the expectations). Even our heroes, the LeFevers, can be a little frightening sometimes. But they’re cute most of the time, we’re rooting for them of course. They’re trying to live their American Dream, they’re smart enough to succeed, but to be able to do so, sooner or later they will have to enter a pact with the Devil. The Devil being the Boyd family here, one of the richest of the city, with Hap, the father, played by Don Johnson -a role reminiscent of the one he played in Tarantino’s Django Unchained– and his wife, Darla (Amber Valletta), the bitch in chief. There is a tense dinner scene with the four of them that is great. They happen to have two disloyal children, Wick (Scott Michael Foster) who is in constant war with his father, and Lacey, an environmental activist who is deeply in love with Hap’s driver, who is not the man everybody think he is. But for now, the LeFevers are poor. They live in a trailer parked in Patchwork, a mini-city inside the city, some sort of bidonville, where they meet good people for a change, eager to help them.
There’s a lot to assimilate at first in Boom and it won’t be an easy show to sell, especially on a network, but as I said before, it’s Dallas, it’s a soap, but more grounded, with higher ambitions. It’s no Empire. If ABC orders it to series, it will either bomb quickly or explode and become a hit. Is the audience ready for it? I sure hope so!