TV Recap: The Player, Series Premiere

Written by Aaron Sarnecky

The Player Poster

THE PLAYER, ‘PILOT’ PLOT SUMMARY:

After an assassin murders his ex-wife, Ginny (Daisy Betts), Alex Kane (Philip Winchester) teams up with Mr. Johnson (Wesley Snipes), head of the House, a secret organization that predicts and bets on crime. In hopes of finding Ginny’s killer, Alex agrees to be the House’s player, a third party that tries to stop selected crimes in order to give the gamblers another side to bet on.

Maybe I have an odd sense of humor, but I find it funny that one of Wesley Snipes’ first projects since his release from jail revolves around crime. For those of you who don’t know, he went prison for a couple of years for tax evasion. Of course, he did his time and I’m sure he’s learned his lesson; it’s just ironic that he wouldn’t want to shed his criminal image by picking a different role. Honestly, I don’t know much about Wesley Snipes beyond his legal troubles, and that he starred as the vampire hunter Blade, and that most of buzz around The Player is centered on him.

Wesley Snipes in The Player
Photo Credit: Gregory E. Peters/NBC

But while NBC has capitalized on Snipes’ fame, let it be clear that Snipes’ Mr. Johnson is a supporting role; Alex Kane is our protagonist. And while he might not be as interesting of a character, he certainly proves to an excellent action hero within the first few minutes of show. The stunts he performs are something that I’m actually kind of surprised to be in a NBC show. If anything, they remind me more of The CW’s Arrow. But don’t take that wrong way, because the action is easily the best part about this pilot, and from the looks of things, there will be more of it to come.

But like I said, Alex Kane as an actual character is not always interesting. His motivation, avenging his wife (technically ex-wife, but they were still romantically involved) is beyond overused. While she’s likeable, we don’t get that much time with her before she’s killed. In addition, the backstory of her saving him from himself is a little too sappy. The promotion at the end of the episode does suggest we’ll learn more about her, but right now she just functions as a tired plot device.

The House, on the other hand, is a lot more intriguing. The concept of betting on crime is sort of strange, but other shows have had stranger ideas. It’s less of what the House does and more of its power that grabs my attention. According to them, the House has been around for over a century, and it might have even been involved in some historical events, including presidential assassinations. It’s a group so resourceful that the dealer, Cassandra King (Charity Wakefield) can literally make police cars and a police helicopter turn around with the snap of a finger. That begs the question of how aware the police and the government are of the House, though the pilot implies that the House is as secret as Mr. Johnson and Cassandra claim it to be.

Photo Credit: Gregory E. Peters/NBC
Photo Credit: Gregory E. Peters/NBC

Speaking of Mr. Johnson, while Snipes certainly has a screen presence (and is the main draw of the show for many viewers), he does tend to overact at times. This is doubly true when Mr. Johnson pretends he’s part of the FBI; Snipes goes a little too country lawyer to be taken seriously. Still, if Mr. Johnson ends up becoming the villain, he has already shown that he is more than a match for Alex, tactically and physically. Cassandra, however, might be the one Alex might have to look out for. She seems better intentioned than Mr. Johnson, but there’s definitely more to her than meets the eye.

But despite a decent amount of mystery, so far The Player is shallower than it wants to be. I can’t think of a moment that I really connected with the characters. That might change as the series reveals more about them, but it probably involves the goofy romance between Alex and Ginny, so somehow doubt this show is going to deliver in that department; I wouldn’t recommend watching this show for that. But if you like well-done action scenes, shows with unique premises, or if you want to see Wesley Snipes ham it up, I’d say give it a look.

RATING: 6.5 OUT OF 10 (AVERAGE)

The Player airs every Thursday at 10pm on NBC

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