NBC’s The Player should not be taken seriously. It revolves around an all-powerful, mysterious organization that handles bets by the super rich on how dangerous, criminal situations will be resolved. Will the criminals murder, kidnap, or steal, or will ‘The Player,’ the one man on the opposite side of the bet, stop them? This is the ridiculous premise of NBC’s latest go-for-broke entertainment that looks to build on the crazy intensity of The Blacklist (and more recently, Blindspot). But it stars Wesley Snipes (welcome back, from IRS purgatory!) and Philip Winchester (the delightfully mercenary Strike Back), so it can’t be all bad, right?
The Player is just my kind of cheesy. Like James Bond or a Mark Wahlberg vehicle. It doesn’t have to make sense to be exciting, witty, and well-produced. That’s my initial reaction to the pilot, where Alex Kane (Winchester) is framed for his ex-wife-who-he-just-got-back-together-with-girlfriend’s murder, chased by his friend and local Las Vegas cop (Damon Gupton, The Divide miniseries), and confronted with a kidnapping only he can stop. There’s a certain gritty comic book feel to this that leans toward Brian Michael Bendis (Powers) in humor and style, but still invokes the spirit of Sir Ian Fleming’s 007.
Of course, no show worth its salt anymore would exist without a mythos, a backstory, the loose web holding it all together. That’s where the ex-wife comes in. Yes, I’ll spoil it but please, it’s the pilot: his ex-wife might not be dead, and she’s a friend of the corporation’s super-techie, Cassandra (Charity Wakefield), who has her doe eyes aimed at Kane. Yes, this is targeting you, Blacklist-ers, but it’s some raucous entertainment that has earned a few weeks at least in my DVR.
For the deeper note, I’ll acknowledge that Kane steps up and continues as the champion for those who have no champion. He’s like Katniss stepping forward when her sister’s number is called. Sure, both of them have a festered interest in what they do (it’s his ex-wife, her sister), but ultimately, they become a symbol for more than themselves. “No greater love than this…” said Jesus, right? Kane will prove, I’m sure, that this is more than a game in the end.
The Player airs on NBC at 10 p.m. on Thursdays.