The upcoming Starz drama Heels stars real-life wrestling fan and occasional participant Stephen Amell as Jack Spade, who constantly butts heads — both in and out of the ring — with his brother Ace Spade (Vikings’ Alexander Ludwig) as the brothers try to keep their small-town wrestling promotion alive after their father’s death. It’s a classic battle of villainous “heels” vs. protagonist “faces” as the cable drama aims to offer a glimpse behind the masks and fanfare, to illuminate a side of independent wrestling that most of us don’t get to witness in action.
Stephen Amell’s first big TV project after starring for eight seasons on The CW's Arrow is one that's close to his heart, as Amell has been involved in various wrestling promotions over the years — including a WWE SummerSlam. So wrestling fans have high, off-the-top-turnbuckle hopes for the series, and they thankfully don’t have to wait much longer to see it. With Heels premiering very soon, let’s see what the critics are saying, starting with our own mini-review from CinemaBlend's Nick Venable, who thinks the new drama is a winner for all audiences, no matter how one feels about wrestling itself.
In its review of the Starz drama, Collider calls Heels an unabashed soap opera in the way it plants wrestling-esque plots into its domestic settings.
The A.V. Club also compared the series' storytelling mechanics to how things are handled in professional wrestling itself, by way of introducing seemingly stereotypical characters and then peeling back the layers of their lives to make everyone more rounded.
Entertainment Weekly gave Heels a B+, complimenting its slow-burn arc and the actors’ performances, but took issue with the writing for the show’s female characters, namely Jack’s business partner Willie (played by Mary McCormack) and his wife Staci (Alison Luff).
TV Line also points out that you don’t have to be a wrestling fan to enjoy Heels, much like Friday Night Lights wasn’t just enjoyed by high school football fans. While the review states there were missed opportunities to address unconscious bias with its BIPOC characters, the outlet still called Heels a “well-written love letter to independent wrestling.”
While there were certainly some smaller criticisms directed at Heels across the board, the overall consensus points to Heels being a new drama that's well worth anyone's time, regardless of how one feels about the shirtless and sweat-covered subject matter. By and large, Starz's foray into dramatized sports-entertainment is worth the price of admission, and a couple of beers in giant plastic cups.
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Heidi Venable is a Content Producer for CinemaBlend, a mom of two and a hard-core '90s kid. She started freelancing for CinemaBlend in 2020 and officially came on board in 2021. Her job entails writing news stories and TV reactions from some of her favorite prime-time shows like Grey's Anatomy and The Bachelor. She graduated from Louisiana Tech University with a degree in Journalism and worked in the newspaper industry for almost two decades in multiple roles including Sports Editor, Page Designer and Online Editor. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.