How much you enjoy Amazon’s new comedy pilot Salem Rogers will come down to how funny you think someone getting tased is, and your swallowing of lines such as, “You’re like the AIDS of people. There’s just no stopping you.” Though that sort of off-the-cuff caustic humor has been in vogue for years, the quality of it varies dramatically. Salem Rogers, I’m happy to report, is mostly able to juggle the edgy humor nimbly throughout its pilot episode, with only a few spots where it drops the proverbial ball.
So, who is Salem Rogers? Well, first off, she was Model of the Year 1998 and engaged to Jason Priestly at the height of his powers. Nowadays, she’s in a “mental health institution” (it wasn’t, it had an infinity pool), for all of the debauchery she led throughout her younger years.
The pilot opens with Salem believing the rehab she’s at is shutting down because the Indians bought their land back; it’s not, they just told her that so she would get the hell out. Her disastrously awful opening monologue to her fellow recovering addicts – “Hi my name is Salem and I’m an alcoholic.” “Hi Sal-” “I’m talking.” – coupled with the euphoric outbursts of the various workers and residents of the rehab paint a pretty clear picture of who Salem is and what kind of show this is going to be.
Meanwhile, Salem’s old assistant, Agatha Todd, has used the abusive experience of serving at Salem’s hands and feet to fuel a series of “tween self-help books,” its main villain inspired by Rogers herself. Agatha, who Salem questionably calls “Rags,” wants to grow out of what she views as a pigeonhole and be considered more professional, a life coach to adults in real need. Her manager argues that she needs some kind of recovering train wreck of a celebrity to be able to make it as a life coach in Hollywood. Well whaddya know?