NBC sure spent a lot of money on the TV adaptation of Robert Altman’s 1992 Hollywood satire ‘The Player‘, but I’m not sure that the writers understood what the movie was about.
Ohhhhhh… It’s not that ‘The Player’. It’s something completely different that uses the same title because the hacks who created it couldn’t think of anything more fitting. I get it now. That actually explains a lot.
With that cleared up, the new series is a very silly action thriller about a badass, super-capable Las Vegas security consultant named Alex Kane (Philip Winchester from ‘Strike Back’) who gets recruited by a mystery man known only as Mr. Johnson (Wesley Snipes) and his adorable British sidekick Cassandra (Charity Wakefield) to fight crime… with a catch. Johnson and Cassandra work for a powerful, secretive organization called Occam that caters to the fancies of the wealthiest of the wealthy elite – the type of people who pull politicians’ strings and rule the world behind-the-scenes without anyone ever hearing of them.
These clients have grown so bored with accumulating wealth that they gamble it away to pass the time. Yet they all have so much money that they can’t possibly lose enough in traditional forms of gambling to affect them. So they’ve created a very exclusive form of illegal gambling. They bet on crime. Specifically, Occam has applied its seemingly unlimited resources to developing a supercomputer that can predict crimes before they occur. (I bet it’s the same one from CBS’s ‘Person of Interest’.) They use this as the basis for a game. Johnson describes himself as the “Pit Boss” and Cassandra is “The Dealer.” Alex will be “The Player.” When Cassandra identifies a major crime in the works, The Player is given a time limit to stop the bad guys using only his skills and his wits, and no outside resources other than calling Cassandra (who can do pretty much anything for him, from hacking security systems to calling off law enforcement). The bidders will then place extraordinarily high dollar bets on whether he’ll succeed or fail before the timer runs out.
This all sounds pretty suspect, and Alex refuses to play at first. However, after his ex-wife/friend-with-benefits (Daisy Betts from ‘Last Resort’) is murdered and Alex realizes that this was one of the crimes the supercomputer predicted (yet the group did nothing to stop), he takes the job – not because he wants to play the game, but because he wants to find out who’s behind it. Upon doing so, he’s told that it’s a permanent lifetime position that he cannot ever walk away from, and he’s not the first player. He asks what happened to the last one, but needn’t bother. He already knows the answer to that.
For his first game, Alex has to rescue the kidnapped daughter of a foreign diplomat – which he does, because this is the type of show where the hero is always victorious. I imagine that will make the gambling aspect of the premise redundant quickly. Once he’s proven that he will always beat the bad guys, why would anyone ever bet against him?
Episode Verdict / Grade: C-
I find it amusing that the very first line of dialogue in the pilot episode is Wesley Snipes saying: “Disappointing.” That pretty much sums it up. The show is very, very dumb. The action scenes are all choppy and incoherent. Snipes, once upon a time an action star himself, is given nothing interesting to do. In fact, one scene where he pretends to be an FBI agent while strutting around in some sort of old-timey Southern lawyer caricature is just plain puzzling. I can’t imagine what the actor was thinking with that or why the show’s creators let him do it.
Worse, the writers totally ignore the very obvious opportunity to have Snipes say “Always bet on black.” C’mon now, how do you miss that? If you write for a TV show in which almost every other line of dialogue is some strained gambling metaphor and you don’t make Wesley Snipes say that line, then you’re just not doing your job.