October 2, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Pilot + 1 Review: “The Player”


THE PLAYER:  Thursday 10PM on NBC

A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at SHOWBUZZDAILY, we look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on THE PLAYER:  Alex Kane (Philip Winchester), former government agent, soldier and security consultant, was recruited by a shadowy, sociopathic, all-knowing organization based in Las Vegas that places bets on whether crimes can be stopped by a single well-equipped individual with advance notice.  (One of their bets, which Kane lost–or did he?–was whether he could prevent the murder of his ex-ex-wife.)  Kane’s long-term plan is to discover the organization’s secrets, but meanwhile he gets his assignments from “The Dealer” Cassandra (Charity Wakefield) who also watches over his progress and offers support from her massive computer system, while “The Pit Boss,” Mr. Johnson (Wesley Snipes), serves as a dangerous interface between all concerned.

Episode 2:  Kane continued to believe that his ex only appeared to be dead, despite apparent DNA confirmation, and the enigmatic Mr. Johnson offered to help him find out the truth, although he appears to be utterly untrustworthy.  (Elsewhere in the episode, he blackmailed a Cabinet secretary into killing a government informant.)  We also briefly met Cassandra’s unknowing boyfriend.

The bulk of the hour, though, was concerned with the show’s bet of the week, in which Kane was given the charge of stopping a group of ex-Special Forces personnel turned homicidal thieves, a pack that turned out to be headed by a former colleague (played by Joseph Sikora from Power).  The script, by Co-Executive Producer Jim Campolongo, had a bare amount of characterization, and was basically a hanger on which to fold action sequences, while Cassandra retained her virtually unlimited ability to hack into every surveillance system and database imaginable.

Episode director Michael J. Bassett did a fair job with a couple of the set-pieces, including an opening heist on an armored van, and a mid-air fight that looked more convincing than a similar scene on this week’s Scorpion.  On the whole, though, the hour was strictly functional, with actors who posed while they recited their generic dialogue, each line designed to do no more than get from point A to point B.  (The most charismatic person on screen by far was Sikora.)

The Player showed little promise in last week’s ratings, although that was without its regular lead-in of The Blacklist.  Perhaps that show (which shares a producer with The Player) will be more compatible.  But in a fall marked by network shows that are almost singlemindedly retro, this one is particularly disposable, a humorless leap backwards to a TV world two decades or more out of date in which substance was an afterthought.  It’s an extremely bum hand to play.

PILOT:  Change the Channel

PILOT + 1:  You Have To Know When to Fold ‘Em

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."