Take a profession that most people rank in vileness between used car salesmen and lawyers, add a generous helping of self-important overacting and cliche-ridden dialogue, throw in a dash of ultra-slick production values, and you have “Traders,” a new hourlong series on Lifetime produced by Canadian company Atlantis.
Its stock looks ready to drop. Premiere episode intros main characters at Gardner/Ross, a Toronto investment house with a solid rep. But senior partner Cedric Ross is arrested, and his economist daughter Sally steps in to run the op while Daddy rots in jail. Meanwhile, hotshot trader Jack Larkin (the smirking but beautifully dressed David Cubitt) sets up a risky deal that will make or break Gardner/Ross. Since Lifetime has 12 more episodes on tap, it’s safe to say Jack and his “maverick” ways usually succeed.
“Traders” is peppered with characters desperate to be “colorful” and ruthless , with Sally (a beautiful but wooden Sonja Smits) the key to viewers’ presumably female sympathy as she fights the male chauvinists at the family firm. But it’s the lack of sympathy for these characters and their world that undermines the series. Their main pursuits seem to be money, not getting caught by authorities, money, yelling at one another, money, making deals and money.
Unlike the excellent “L.A. Law,” which took another unsympathetic profession and made it human and poignant with terrific writing and acting, “Traders” sinks under flat writing. Nothing rings true. The cast, frantically overacting, are all pretty anonymous, mistaking the stereotypes they were given for 3-D creations. Production designer Stephen Roloff has done a fine job with the cold steel-and-wood interiors of the firm, and the wardrobe is more evocative than any dialogue. Dizzying direction relies on the “NYPD Blue”-TV commercial school of the shaky camera, which creates more nausea than energy and insight. To the producers of “Traders”: Timing is everything, and the ’80s are over.