Blood and Oil: Tuesdays at 10 p.m. Eastern on Discovery Channel
More often than not, when I’m reviewing a reality series, they tend to be of the more glitzy and schmaltzy variety where people with way too much money spend their time cat-fighting with and yelling at each other. At the other extreme are the documentary series that actually follow regular people living their day to day lives, especially if it’s in a profession where things can go horribly wrong in an instant (the most notable example is Deadliest Catch). Discovery Channel tends to be the most common place you find these sorts of shows, and they go back to that well tonight with their newest show, Blood and Oil.
Blood and Oil follows the Cutters, an Ohio family whom happen to deal in the crude oil business. As they deal with the passing of patriarch Chuck, the family must scramble to secure drilling rights across Ohio as the state goes through an oil boom. But they are not alone in trying to drill out the new found oil, as they must compete with a number of much larger companies in order for the company to stay afloat.
Blood and Oil pushes it’s supposed David and Goliath narrative to extremes, attempting to portray the Cutters as these knights in shining armor against the malevolent forces of “big oil” (a phrase used to portray evil in a way that hasn’t been seen since 2005). These forces have “conspired” to buy up smaller farmers and force the Cutters to drill on their large 700-plus acre farmland in order to take advantage of an oil boom that arises after taking a long layoff due to the death of their patriarch and president, Chuck Cutter.
Our biggest problem, however, is that our main protagonist, CJ Cutter, is completely unlikable and entirely too bullheaded for anyone’s own good. This is pretty evident as it’s not even 15 minutes into our first show and he’s trying to push drilling a well in what is literally his sister Kristin’s backyard, which is introduced by a segment introduced by CJ proudly bragging about how he bullied his brother in law into joining the family business. He’s also shown steamrolling both his mother and boss Beth, as well as his youngest brother Josh (whose degree in Geology is blatantly ignored by CJ whenever possible) since CJ prefers to run on his “gut feeling” throughout our entire pilot.
The end result is a show where you start to wonder whether the Cutters’ dire straits are more the result of poor leadership than anything. CJ and Josh resolve a work dispute by having a wrestling match in a large grain silo. Meanwhile, Beth and Kristin were bamboozled by CJ into letting him drill in a spot that he wouldn’t divulge to them in the meeting (the aforementioned well in Kristin’s backyard). Similarly, the presence of metal thieves on the farm leads to the demolition of the family’s 150 year old farmhouse, a decision unilaterally made by CJ (notice a recurring trend on these decisions?).
Unfortunately, in addition to our unlikable protagonist, the show seems to be poorly constructed. Segments of narration are often repeated verbatim throughout the show, most notably a recap that is used at least twice through the middle-third of the show which makes sure to use as many of the shows buzz phrases (including but limited to: big oil, roll the dice, get back in the oil game, to keep the family together, cutter-style) as possible. Much of the exposition is also doubled including quoting CJ’s promise to his father in huge speeches ending in “lets go kick some ass”. Additionally, there are least three situations during the show that seem entirely too contrived (including a “big oil spy” in an SUV that CJ manages to cut off just in time for the SUV to slow down and then try to run him down (only to see that same likely production truck appear in a number of later shots and a re-enactment of CJ dealing with metal thieves that involves CJ wrecking their van while they run off that is claimed to happen six months before our pilot takes place).
The Final Verdict: Not informative enough to be a documentary and not entertaining enough to be a reality show, Blood and Oil instead takes on the weaknesses of it’s genres instead of their strengths. The end result is a show that tries so hard to force a narrative built around David and Goliath that it ignores the internal logic of its’ own story (at one point it pushes that the break-in was the result of “big oil” snooping around only to find out it was instead more mundane metal thieves). Making matters worse is the fact that our metaphorical David is kind of a jerk, making one wonder how much better off this family would end up if they just ignored him. Avoid this unless Discovery decides to take it’s cross marketing to ridiculous extremes and find a way to cross this over with shark week.