SWIMMING WITH SHARKS is a six-part series that follows LA assistant Lou Simms (Kiernan Shipka) as she starts her internship at Fountain Pictures. While Lou may seem like a naïve Hollywood newcomer, awestruck by the studio’s notorious CEO, Joyce Holt (Diane Kruger), landing this internship was no happy accident. As Lou’s obsession grows, she will do anything to get close to her idol. Donald Sutherland, Thomas Dekker, Finn Jones, Erika Alexander, Ross Butler and Gerardo Celasco round out the cast. Written by showrunner Kathleen Robertson and directed by Tucker Gates. Chris Cowles, Liz Destro, Stephen Israel, Jay Cohen and Dana Brunetti served as executive producers. The series was created in partnership with Lionsgate Television. It is one of the projects developed for the ill-fated Quibi platform and like most Quibi shows is now being released exclusively on The Roku Channel under the ‘Roku Originals’ Label.
The show strays away from what you might think at first glance and effectively flips the ‘victim/me-too’ narrative on it’s head as we meet a number of equally repulsive characters that are driven solely to their own ends no matter who or what might get in their way. Diane Kruger plays highly motivated yet morally corrupt studio head Joyce Holt who it seems is a result of the Hollywood system which she has been living with and we see the effects this has on her personal and work life. Kiernan Shipka’s Lou Simms at first appears as the out-of-town girl trying to make it big but we soon learn there is much more to her charecter. Shipka’s performance is equal parts mesmerising and terrifying and is a real stand-out and hook for the show. We also get to see Donald Sutherland’s turn as creepy old generation studio owner Redmond who has own view of the world.
The show does how ever suffer from the Quibi-imposed short run time of each episode (around 25mins), which means charecter development is often rushed or brushed over so that we can get through the twists and turns of each episode; where it feels there was enough material here to spread these across a full season, instead it feels like the same amount of drama is crammed into these six episodes, which is a shame given the otherwise high standard of the performances and writing. The show also has a strong, contemporary visual style (if a little jarring at times). The subject matter is timely and even if the show’s reality is somewhat exaggerated from the real Hollywood we can certainly see the association there. Still very much recommended viewing for the performances alone but hopefully the pace can be improved for future seasons.
3.5/5 – An intriguing twisty-turny show with strong female characters, but suffers from it’s short run time.
All episodes will be released 15th April 2022 for free exclusively on The Roku Channel.