You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘The Player’

Philip Winchester, Charity Wakefield, Damon Gupton, Wesley Snipes

NBC’s most puzzling roll of the dice this development season, “The Player” might set a record in terms of the amount of time spent trying to explain the rules of the show. Not that it really helps this simple-minded drama, which contains an element similar to “Person of Interest,” if that show were smacked across the frontal lobe. Presumably bountiful action, modest mythology and the casting of Wesley Snipes are expected to smooth over those rough patches, but since the premiere talks a lot about gambling, in terms of a second season, don’t bet on it.

Philip Winchester (who joins his “Strike Back” co-star Sullivan Stapleton in new NBC dramas) plays Alex Kane, a security consultant whose ex-wife is murdered early in the proceedings. This provides an excuse for Winchester to chase the bad guy down the Las Vegas strip in his underwear, which might be the only way this clunky hour — created by John Rogers and John Fox, and boasting a producing pedigree from “The Blacklist” — will ever be compared to “Birdman.”

Once clothed, Kane is recruited by a shadowy organization presided over, sort of, by Snipes’ mysterious Mr. Johnson, who goes by the name the Dealer, and Cassandra King (Charity Wakefield), an attractive Brit seemingly intended to class up the joint. It’s explained to Kane, badly, that the faceless oligarchs who participate in this elaborate high-stakes game calculate probabilities of criminal activity and then “gamble on crime,” with the Player, the role they’d like Kane to take on, the major variable in terms of stopping it.

Of course, Players don’t have a terrific track record in terms of longevity, so it behooves our reluctant hero to figure out if there’s some way to beat the system in terms of knowing when hold ’em or fold ’em. Yet while that speaks to some potential for growth — for all the exposition, there’s a lot that remains murky — it’s hard to see the series blossoming into much of anything, based on the thudding nature of the premiere.

Mostly, it’s all just a glossy excuse for a lot of high-speed chases and fights, informed by the seemingly futile hope that the program’s tone and look will appeal to “The Blacklist” audience, which merely suggests some confusion as to why people responded well to that show. Even without the absolutely tortured nature of the premise here, the characters are stiff to the point of being laughable.

Escapism has its place, and NBC has fared reasonably well by spinning the wheel on a certain kind of procedural-like crime drama that hews toward CBS’ footprint. Still, if this is reflective in any way of the scope of the Peacock network’s ambitions, well, that really would be a crime.


TV Review: 'The Player'

(Series; NBC, Thurs. Sept. 24, 10 p.m.)

Production: Filmed in Los Angeles by Kung Fu Monkey Prods. and Davis Entertainment in association with Sony Pictures Television.

Crew: Executive producers, John Rogers, John Zinman, Patrick Massett, John Davis, John Fox; co-executive producers, Jack Clements, Amanda Segel, Jim Campolongo, Mike Ostrowski; supervising producers, VJ Boyd, Jessica Rieder-Grasl; producer, Jen Court; director, Bharat Nalluri; writer, Rogers; story by Rogers, Fox; camera, Tom Camarda; production designer, Michael Novotny; editor, Niven Howie; music, Dominic Lewis; casting, Mele Nagler, Bonnie Grisan, Vicky Thomas. 60 MIN.

Cast: Philip Winchester, Charity Wakefield, Damon Gupton, Wesley Snipes

More TV

  • Series Mania: Q & A with

    Series Mania: ‘Hierro’ as ‘Southern Noir’ and an Industry Groundbreaker

    LILLE, France —  Banijay Rights-sold “Hierro” begins with sea, land, air and fire: Shots of the stunning volcanic isle of El Hierro, the most westerly point of Spain’s Canary Islands, with its black basalt rock, brown iron-rich gravel, white waves pummeling the coast, trees trunks twisted by wind and lava, a juniper bent double by [...]

  • Shekhar Kapur to Direct 'Ibis' Trilogy

    Shekhar Kapur to Direct 'Ibis' Trilogy for Endemol Shine (EXCLUSIVE)

    Acclaimed Indian director, Shekhar Kapur is to direct a TV series for Endemol Shine based on historical novels by Amitav Ghosh, known as the “Ibis Trilogy.” The deal was announced at Series Mania in Lille. The books “Sea of Poppies,” “River of Smoke,” and “Flood of Fire,” are set in mid-19th century Asia. They interweave [...]

  • ‘Lambs Of God’ To World Premiere

    Lingo Pictures, Endemol Shine’s ‘Lambs of God’ Set for Series Mania World Premiere

    LILLE, France — Lingo Pictures Productions and Endemol Shine’s new Australian limited series “Lambs of God,” based on the Australian novel of the same name by Marele Day, world premieres on Wednesday, March 27 in the main International Competition at this year’s Series Mania festival. The series follows three devout nuns, the last sisters of [...]

  • Bruno DEBRANDT (Florent) et Julie GAYET

    Federation Acquires Intl. Sales Rights on Series Mania French Competition Player ‘Torn’

    LILLE, France — Leading French independent production-finance-distribution sales company Federation Entertainment has secured international sales rights on upcoming French psychological thriller “Torn.” The series was created and written by director Lionel Bailliu (“Innocente”)and Yann Le Gal (“Léo Mattéï, Brigade des Mineurs”) and world premieres in the official French competition on March 25 at France’s Series [...]

  • About Premium Content Expands Scope, Rebrands

    About Premium Content Expands Scope, Rebrands as APC Studios (EXCLUSIVE)

    As it celebrates its fifth anniversary, the rising Paris-based TV production and distribution company About Premium Content is rebranding as APC Studios to reflect the expanded scope of its activities. APC Studios, which launched as a sales company in 2014, is now a producer, financier and distributor of upscale projects ranging from scripted to factual [...]

  • Win Rosenfeld, Jordan Peele and Simon

    'Star Trek: Discovery,' 'Twilight Zone' Bring Energy, Emotion to PaleyFest

    Both the CBS All Access shows “Star Trek: Discovery” and the upcoming “Twilight Zone” reboot held PaleyFest panels on Sunday, with both sets of cast and creators bringing energy, humor, and emotion to the stage. Both panels were moderated by Variety‘s executive editor of TV, Daniel Holloway. First up was “Discovery,” where series star Doug [...]

  • Marvel's Runaways Review

    'Marvel's Runaways' Renewed for Third Season at Hulu

    Hulu has renewed “Marvel’s Runaways” for a third season. Set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Runaways” stars Rhenzy Feliz, Lyrica Okano, Virginia Gardner, Ariela Barer, Gregg Sulkin, and Allegra Acosta as the Runaways, six teenagers from different backgrounds who unite against their parents, the Pride, portrayed by Angel Parker, Ryan Sands, Annie Wersching, Kip Pardue, Ever Carradine, James Marsters, Brigid Brannagh, Kevin Weisman, Brittany Ishibashi, and James Yaegashi. The new order is [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content