There’s a strong element of nostalgia in “Dice,” Showtime’s nobody-was-really-asking-for-this comedy featuring Andrew Dice Clay — and that’s just in the opening credits. Starting with footage of the controversial comic from his arena-filling heyday, the series proceeds to introduce him, not very imaginatively, as a slightly worn-down version of himself, eking out a living while enduring various indignities in the colorful confines of Las Vegas. The show has its moments, spread over six episodes, but as showbiz perches goes, this one is hardly the top of the world, ma.
“Dice” presents Clay as an insecure and misunderstood funny man, one who seldom misses an opportunity to remind people that he’s Andrew, not the boorish guy he played on stage. Eschewing much of a support system, in terms of series regulars, the show flanks him only with a live-in girlfriend (played by comic Natasha Leggero, who deserves better) and a buddy named Milkshake (Kevin Corrigan), who is generally there to make Dice seem like the smartest guy in the room by a mile.
The conceit is that Dice has largely blown through much of his cash, which, in a later episode (and one of the best ones), means he can no longer pick up the tab to treat his visiting buddies as ostentatiously as he once did. Yet the nature of the show is highly episodic, depending on the guests in each episode, which frankly makes Showtime’s decision to stream the entire season (such as it is) somewhat puzzling.
The premiere, in which Dice attends a gay wedding — a thorny proposition given how his stand-up act angered the LGBT community — is perhaps the most sitcom-like of the episodes, which then proceed to plunge into celebrity cameos. That includes Adrien Brody, who, as a method-acting exercise, wants to hang out with Dice to experience his machismo; an unfortunate run-in with magician (sorry, “mind freak”) Criss Angel; and an inevitable brush with Vegas staple Wayne Newton.
Created by Scot Armstrong (“Old School”), the show does contain funny bits, such as Brody’s performance, which gradually morphs into a dead-on impersonation; or Lorraine Bracco’s amusing turn as a tough-as-nails casino boss. Other aspects, however, simply feel tired, such as a subplot in which Dice is concerned that his sex life at home isn’t hot enough. (His first proposed solution: Invite other women to join them.)
While “Dice” appears to have been pitched as a sort-of variation on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” the comparison pretty much ends there. Nor is the show helped by the fact that it happens to arrive days after George Lopez and David Hasselhoff were each trotted out in similar vehicles, which makes the star-playing-himself formula seem less edgy than merely lazy, as if the actors don’t want to worry about bothering to remember character names too.
There is something evergreen in contemplating how the view changes as one ascends and descends the show-business ladder, and Clay obviously has an interesting persona to probe. By that measure, “Dice” is hardly a sucker’s bet. It’s just that the series brings so little new to that proposition, or to its hero’s predicament, as to feel, more often than not, like a roll that comes up snake eyes.