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'Flesh and Bone' review: Dance drama lacks heart

Sarah Hay, left, and Ben Daniels in a

Sarah Hay, left, and Ben Daniels in a scene from "Flesh and Bone," premiering on Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015 on Starz. Photo Credit: AP / Patrick Harbron

BOTTOM LINE

A grim, gray grind.

THE SERIES "Flesh and Bone"

WHEN | WHERE Premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on Starz

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Claire (Sarah Hay) is a ballet dancer who leaves behind an abusive home life in Pittsburgh only to find more abuse at the hands of the sadistic Paul Grayson (Ben Daniels), the artistic director of the financially strapped American Ballet Company. Claire is both innocent and immensely talented: Paul decides to cast her in a new ballet, but there are some hurdles she must clear first. Hence, innocence lost.

At least Claire has Romeo (Damon Herriman), who lives beneath her apartment window (get it?) He's homeless, but full of warmth and wisdom. This limited series is eight hours.

MY SAY "Flesh and Bone" is "Smash" in a tutu -- except it's grittier, meaner, harder and (surprisingly) duller. Also: Not many tutus. There is nudity, plenty of that because this is on Starz, while "Smash" was on NBC. So that explains that.

Otherwise, the familiarity is striking, the show-biz archetypes, too. There's the Ingénue from the Sticks, the David Merrick with the sadist's touch, and the Eve Harrington -- that embittered world-weary veteran with malice in his or her heart. You almost expect someone to drolly observe, "If nothing else, there's applause." Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan" from 2010 had some of these elements, too, but they were confined to a two-hour movie. This rolls on for eight.

What happens at the end of those eight? After two hours, I found myself not really wanting to know. "Flesh and Bone" is depleting that way.

The failure, if that's what this ultimately becomes, is baffling: "Flesh and Bone" is sumptuously shot. All muted and penumbrous, Manhattan never looked so inviting and forbidding at the same time. There are some excellent actors here, too, most notably Daniels ("The Hollow Crown," "House of Cards.") Newcomer Hay is very good as well. Then, there's the name above the title: Moira Walley-Beckett, show creator and one of the brains behind "Breaking Bad." She won the prestigious best writing/drama Emmy for the "BB" episode "Ozymandias."

But "Flesh and Bone" is so grim, so devoid of pleasure, so moldering that you're left to wonder why this significant collection of talent didn't actually have something fun or exciting to say about the New York ballet world. "Fun" -- along with "pleasure" -- are the biggest casualties here.

GRADE C+

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