After the first volume presented a whole lot to take in, this latest one finds the series settling into a fairly decent groove with its warts-and-all look at the early days of television. This is mainly because it does a better job of making the main plot as interesting as its many subplots. You’d think that Michael White, son of original “Satellite Sam” star Carlyle White, and his investigation of his father’s death would have been the driving force of this series. That didn’t turn out to be the case, but Michael evolves into a more interesting protagonist here as we learn more about his history and the connections he forged with future members of the show back in WWII. More entertaining is how we see him start to indulge in the same kind of hedonism his father loved to document and stop taking crap from those who would steer the show in their own direction. As a result, Michael emerges from this volume as a more unpredictable and compelling presence than I was expecting given how he was previously depicted.
In addition to Michael’s exploits, the series also keeps us appraised of the brewing sex scandal around closeted “Sam” writer Guy Smith, Dr. Joe Ginsberg’s attempts to get his network a bigger part of the broadcast spectrum, “Sam” co-star Maria Metalo’s trouble with the law, and video specialist Eugene Ford’s exploits with his own show. There’s even a few more that I’m not mentioning here, but Matt Fraction does a good job of developing them all from issue to issue. I just wish that each volume came with a specialised “dramatis personae” like the ones from each issue that are reprinted in the back. It is a stronger wish of mine that Howard Chaykin would put a bit more effort into distinguishing each member of the cast as well. While his gritty style is a great fit for the material, there’s a sameness to a lot of the character designs and a key part of Eugene’s subplot is virtually trivialized as a result. Then you’ve also got the cover to this volume which emphasizes the series’ more salacious aspects over its dramatic ones. Yeah, there’s a fair amount of smut in this series, but the drama between its characters is what makes “Satellite Sam” a worthwhile read.