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Reason The show doesn't premiere until a few hours after publish time; we got a screener.

Photo: Gregory Peters / NBC

Should You Answer The Player's Call?

Will you place a bet on on yet another crime prediction show?

What Is This Thing?

Alex Kane is a former fed/terrorist hunter turned Las Vegas security guy, until backslide sex with his ex ends in her (apparent) death at the hands of an intruder. Now considered a suspect in her murder, Kane's recruited by a shadowy organization that -- get this -- caters to the super-rich by predicting a crime, then allowing the 1% to bet on whether a designated mayhem-stopper will prevent the offense or die trying. We've all been there, right?

When Is It On?

Thursdays at 10 PM on NBC.

Why Was It Made Now?

The Blacklist has been NBC's conspiracy-action-drama outlier for a while now, so it makes sense that the network would want to make it a couple buddies in The Player and Blindspot. With the sustained success of Person of Interest over at CBS, and Minority Report premiering on Fox earlier this week, there appears (maybe I should say "appeared") to be solid audience interest in watching people fight crimes before they happen. And, hey, it's not like you could have gotten Wesley Snipes for a couple years there.

What's Its Pedigree?

Initially entitled Endgame, The Player comes from Blacklist co-creator John Fox and John Rogers, the guy who wrote the script for the Halle Berry Catwoman movie and the creator of Leverage. Blacklist executive producers John Davis and Patrick Massett also serve as executive producers here, so it's safe to assume that if you hate everything about The Blacklist you're in the wrong place.

But, honestly, the most thrilling aspect of The Player is the casting of Wesley Snipes. Once able to write his own feature film ticket, Snipes's career took an odd left turn when he served two years in federal prison for tax evasion. Now back on TV for the first time since 1990's Dick Wolf flop H.E.L.P., Snipes is dutifully describing The Player as "one of the better action scripts that I read that whole year" in exactly the way a person who reportedly still owes the IRS somewhere between $5-10 million might.

...And?

Philip Winchester, who plays Kane, is compulsively watchable and I'm not just talking about the part where he runs down the Strip in his underwear. He's charming, brings a nice wit to some of the more embarrassing dialogue, and sells the fuck out of the action.

And there is a lot of action! And it looks well-done and expensive, all against the backdrop of TV/movie Las Vegas (which we all know is far sexier and cooler than real-life Vegas, a.k.a. where fanny packs go to die).

Snipes -- who plays Mr. Johnson, the "Pit Boss" who runs the diabolical game -- is clearly having fun. And even in the pilot, he seems eager to remind us that he has the moves and charisma of an action star, albeit an action star slumming on network TV.

...But?

Well, first, there's the premise, which is so cheeseball I was literally blushing as I typed it for you at the top of this page. It's just as tortured and dorky as it sounds, with many explanations of how if rich people don't do shit like bet on crimestoppers, they'll kill presidents (tell that to Mark Zuckerberg, behind whom I stood in a Trader Joe's line last weekend. Only thing that billionaire looked ready to kill was a bag of Pirate's Booty), and Kane's multiple monologues on how he used to be suuuuuch a bad guy before he met his sainted doctor ex-wife.

To be fair, this is the pilot, so some piloty stuff is to be expected: the one character explaining the other's résumé, pointless 3-D computer presentations, and some tiresome fast-talking "we harness all the computers and cameras and stuff" bullshit regarding the crime-predicting computer that, yeah, probably has Person Of Interest cocking a brow and any real law enforcement agent, who knows that most crimes are not elaborately-planned-well-in-advance operations, cocking more than that. But that dialogue like the overly-earnest "they're people! Not bets!" got through the room does not raise my hopes that these problems are just pilot ones.

And, of course, there's the reason Kane chooses to join Johnson's group as "The Player." (It's the show title, do a shot!) He won't become the bet-upon crime-preventer because "it's a chance to do good," as Cassandra/The Dealer says: it's because he'll be able to avenge his ex's (apparent) death. A Bechdel test passer, this ain't.

Finally, and most hackily, The Hives' "Tick Tick Boom" was used, NOT IRONICALLY, during a pivotal action sequence. Here is a list of all the places this song has been used since 2007. Sorry, The Hives, your song is a cliché and needs to be retired. Please wipe your tears over my decree away with the zillions of hundred-dollar-bills you have been paid to make your song an irritating ubiquity.

...So?

Oh, gosh, you guys. This is so on the bubble for me! It's pretty dumb, but is it going to be so super-dumb that it'll be fun, or not quite dumb enough and therefore maddening? I do believe, given the flourishes Snipes brought to the role, that he's banking (probably literally ha ha) on the former, and Winchester's characterization is smart enough that I have no doubt he could roll with a full-bonkers show.

Of course, all this could be derailed by showrunning that takes this idiotic premise seriously and fails to embrace the joke. So, I'm curious enough to see which way the dice fall (groan) that I'm willing to let it ride (double groan) on my DVR for now. But at the first sign that this show is going to take itself too seriously, I'm cashing out (sorry, okay, I'm done now).

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