3 out of 5
Created by: Krista Vernoff
covers season 1
A few episodes after Rebel premiered, it was announced that it wasn’t being renewed. You could pretty much predict that from the first episode; not that it was bad – and rather, I’d say it was pretty enjoyable – just that it lacked anything that acted as a clear hook, or that necessarily stood out in a cluttered TV landscape. Solid casting, for sure, and a storybase that probably could’ve provided for seasons worth of material – being based on activist Erin Brockovich’s activities, promising emotional fight-fer-yer-right fodder – but still, no real cliffhangers in sight, or any spectacle to distract, or even any really compelling takes on its first season little-guy-vs.-big-corporate setup. Especially in the rocky political mire of (when the show premiered) 2021, going a bit more biting with its stances may’ve helped, but Rebel instead opts for a rather generic tone, although things at least get a little more emotionally nuanced as it goes along. This latter bit – developing our investment in the characters – is rather stalled because of the decision to start us right in the middle of Annie “Rebel” Bello’s (Katey Sagal) cause du season: battling a medical company which has been promoting defective-more-often-than-we’d-like-to-admit heart transplants; we don’t have any time to really understand the stakes of this pursuit, because the show wanted to jump right in to protest mode, and similarly, we get all of Rebel’s brashness up front, and only get to dial down and appreciate Sagal’s performance as well as that of those around her – a quality cast featuring John Corbett, Andy Garcia, Tamala Reneé Jones, Ariela Barer and others – after a while.
Once we’re there, legal proceedings and double-dealing surrounding the case have gotten more interesting, and the cast more three dimensional, and some of the subplots – some romantic pairings; Sagal’s character’s twisty relationship with her husband and ex-husbands – certainly more involving, but we’ve already been canceled by that point.
Hopefully Sagal will get another vehicle to bounce back in, and it’d also be cool to see some of the other recurring actors pop up in continuing shows sooner rather than later; Rebel was a good idea, but perhaps took the wrong approach for maintaining an audience and came across as too middleground as a result.