Caught the pilot of Tilt, a new poker-oriented drama on ESPN. Now, ESPN has tried one fiction series previously, the watchable Playmakers, which was cancelled not due to quality or audience but because the NFL complained. This left me fairly dubious about committing myself to an ESPN series, as they were unqilling to commit themselves to even a successful series. But hey, I was willing to give it a try.
Perhaps 3/4s of the way through the hour, the cable signal cut out… and I felt relieved. Despite various attempts at being over-the-top, the show was dull. I didn’t care what happened to the central character (a famed but shady poker player), nor to any of the other characters involved (the casino boss who works with the shark, other poker players who aim to take the shark down.) And while it’s tough to make poker interesting in fiction, they didn’t even really try. If you were to watch this, you’d believe that the key to being a great poker player is to always have the winning hand; there was nothing more subtle regarding knowing when to get out of the hand, or to bluff, or even to calculate odds. The winners win because every hand their shown playing, they have the best hand. Yawn.
There have been a number of watchable shows set in Vegas in recent years — Nikki, Las Vegas, and Lucky are ones that I’ve chosen to watch recently. And it would’ve been nice if ESPN had grabbed up Lucky when it fell, rather than manufacture this new underwhelming piece.