Before “Survivor’s Remorse” premiered on Starz in 2014, there were a lot of questions about how much it resembled the lives of LeBron James and his friend and business partner Maverick Carter. After all, Carter and James are executive producers of the series. And there are plenty of elements with echoes of their lives and relationships.
But as the series begins its second season, it has plenty to recommend it beyond the idea of peeking into real life. The characters have arrived as their own people, with problems and ideas that make the show entertaining entirely on its own.
“Survivor’s Remorse” stars Jessie T. Usher as Cam Calloway, a hoops phenom on a fictional Atlanta pro team who is trying to figure out what to do with his enormous celebrity, his newly huge paychecks — and the people in his personal life. That group includes his cousin and de facto manager Reggie Vaughn (RonReaco Lee), his outspoken mother Cassie (Tichina Arnold), his sister Mary Charles (Erica Ash), his uncle Julius (Mike Epps) and Reggie’s wife Missy (Teyonah Parris).
The first season was in part about what everyone could and should do with money and the spotlight. I have seen the second season’s first three episodes (out of 10, an increase over the first season’s six). And there’s more of a focus on the people going about their lives.
Reggie is still eager to make Cam a LeBron-scale cross-cultural phenomenon. (King James, by the way, will be in the Oct. 17 episode, taking part in a high-stakes poker game.) Cam, meanwhile, wants to be an on-court winner but is pulled at times into other ventures that seem like a distraction to him.
The women of the show also get considerable time in the early episodes, in ways that can touch on race (there’s a long chat in a salon about the appropriateness of straight hair and a natural style) and age (as Cassie embarks on a lively relationship to the surprise of her children).
And, in the end, the characters are what keep me coming back to the show, both to see their flaws and to rediscover their virtues.
Usher and Lee make a good core for the show, with Lee doing particularly well with Reggie’s often having to be the most stable one in this group. Epps’s Julius is fun, too. But the real standout is Arnold (“Martin,” “Everybody Hates Chris”), who continues to embrace the emotional complexity of Cassie in a powerful way.
Be advised that, if this were a movie, it would be very R-rated, with adult topics and dialogue.