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

  • Larry Wilmore London Hughes

    Larry Wilmore, London Hughes Team for Comedy Put Pilot at NBC

    Larry Wilmore and London Hughes have scored a put pilot order at NBC for a single-cam comedy project they co-created. The untitled series will star Hughes as London Jones, who, after getting dumped by her boyfriend in England, comes to America to find success, herself and maybe even love. Hughes co-wrote the series with Wilmore [...]

  • DUMBO US 1941. Photo by: Mary

    Disney Plus Warns Users Older Movies Have 'Outdated Cultural Depictions'

    The newly launched Disney Plus has no shortage of content, ranging from original animated classics to live-action remakes and “Star Wars” offshoot “The Mandalorian.” With that deep library, Disney is offering a warning that some of the streaming platform’s older content has “outdated cultural depictions.” Films like “Dumbo,” “The Aristocats,” “Lady and the Tramp” and [...]


    'Full Frontal with Samantha Bee' Renewed for Season 5 at TBS

    “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” has been renewed for a fifth season at TBS. In addition, the cabler has renewed its first-look deal with Bee’s production company, Swimsuit Competition. Under the first-look deal, Bee and her company recently began production on an untitled spin-off project from “Full Frontal” correspondent Amy Hoggart. “I’m beyond grateful for [...]

  • Ludwig Goransson Composer

    Composer Takes Music for the 'Star Wars' Series 'The Mandalorian' to a New Universe

    Ludwig Göransson, the Oscar- and Grammy-winning composer of “Black Panther,” faced a tricky assignment when he took on “The Mandalorian,” the new “Star Wars” series launching this week on the Disney Plus streaming service. “It’s a new medium, a new set of characters — and it has a certain tech-y grittiness, because you’re dealing with [...]

  • Jon Huerta

    'This Is Us' Star Jon Huertas Builds Community With Venice's Clutch Restaurant

    “This Is Us” star Jon Huertas, who’s being honored at the Napa Valley Film Festival with Variety Vivant’s Spice Award Nov. 13, has always known he wanted a career in Hollywood. But he’s something of an accidental restaurateur. No, he didn’t exactly stumble into co-owning Clutch, one of the hottest upscale casual restaurants in Venice, [...]

  • Variety Tastemaker honoree Ayesha Curry

    Ayesha Curry's Impact Ranges From Family to Food to Philanthropy

    Ayesha Curry — wife, mother, restaurateur, author, executive producer and CoverGirl — literally does it all. Receiving Variety’s Inaugural Tastemaker award at the 2019 Napa Valley Film Festival, the entrepreneur is being recognized for her social impact in combining entertainment, philanthropy and her culinary lifestyle. Curry holds her cookbook — her first step toward a [...]

  • Joe Anthony Russo

    Russo Brothers Creating Marvel vs. DC Docu-Series for Quibi

    Anthony and Joseph Russo, who have been key creative members of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, are now bringing a new show to Quibi documenting the decades-long rivalry between Marvel and DC. Quibi, the mobile TV subscription startup founded by Jeffrey Katzenberg, greenlit “Slugfest,” a documentary series executive produced by the Russo Brothers, whose directing credits [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content