Home / TV Review: Cane – Season Premiere

TV Review: Cane – Season Premiere

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Remember this: Sugar is the new oil.

David Letterman has already latched onto the phrase, so it has to be poised to be the next pop culture catchphrase. It’s also the lynchpin premise of Cane, Tuesdays on CBS (10PM ET/PT).

Cane is of course billed as “an epic drama” revolving around “the external rivalries and internal power struggles of a large Cuban-American family running an immensely successful rum and sugar business in South Florida.” That’s a PR way of saying it marks the return of the prime time soap.

In all fairness, Cane is much more high-minded than Dallas ever was. True, it’s all about opulence and cutthroat dealings on the surface, but the pilot manages to avoid the campy trappings of all of its seventies-era ancestors. That’s not to say it doesn’t occasionally trip over the trite and true plot devices of the serial drama.

Jimmie Smits plays Alex Vega, the adopted son of Pancho Duque (Hector Elizando), patriarch of the Duque rum empire. Alex is married to Pancho’s daughter, Isabel (Paola Turbay), and is at odds with his adopted brother, Frank (Nestor Carbonell). Things nonetheless go rather festively until the Samuels family, longtime adversaries of the Duques, offer to buy out their sugar interests with lucrative terms.

Frank views the offer as a moneymaker, but Alex, having done his research, knows the Samuels family must have ulterior motives. Alex has friends in high places, it seems, and knows that the government is about to endorse sugar over corn as the basis for ethanol.

Get it? Sugar is the new oil.

It doesn’t take Pancho long to decide that Alex is more suited than Frank to take over the family business. Frank, of course, takes issue with this decision. After all, he is the natural son, and Alex just wormed his way into the family. And thus the stage is set for a sibling conflict to rival Cain and Abel.

Alex isn’t without sin, mind you. He demonstrates dichotomies throughout the episode. He’s a loving husband and a devoted father, who’s not above hiring ex-cons and assorted unsavory Cuban refugees to drive his agendas home. His dark side is especially apparent at the end of the pilot episode.

Pilots, by their very nature, set the course for a series. They introduce the characters, establish their motivations and agendas, and give us hints as to what paths they might travel. When a pilot really shines, it draws the viewer into a world they want to explore further. Cane hints at a dark drama, but never really decides whether it’s willing to step over the precipice. As it stands, it’s either a Miami version of Dallas, or a Cuban- American version of The Sopranos. If it can find its footing quickly, and strike a balance between the two extremes, Cane has the potential to be a guilty pleasure at the very least.

It’s an awfully big if, given the attention spans of audiences today. But, if it tightens its storytelling and definitively decides on a direction, it might have a chance to last through the season.

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About Ray Ellis

  • Cuban Sopranos? I thought they already did that with Scarface.


  • Going the wrong way Glen, now if Sopranos predated Scarface…. Not even counting the original Scarface in the 30s.

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