In the UK: Fridays, 9pm, Sky 1
In the US: Not yet acquired
Stan Lee's the kind of guy who gets to have his name in the title of things. While opinion is divided about exactly how responsible he, rather than say Jack Kirby et al, is for creating Spider-Man, The Avengers, The Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, the X-Men, Daredevil and Doctor Strange, he did enough that he gets to have movies and TV shows called Stan Lee's Mighty 7, Stan Lee's Superhumans, With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story, Stan Lee's Mutants, Monsters & Marvels, Stan Lee's Academy of Heroes and Stan Lee's Oscar Campaign, and to cameo in pretty much all the Marvel universe movies.
By now, he has both name and face check familiarity with the general populace. At least in the US. In the UK? Maybe.
Anyway, that's what Sky 1's probably gambling with Stan Lee's Lucky Man, in which James Nesbitt is a London police detective with a gambling problem who gets possibly the worst thing in the world for a man with his addiction - a magic bracelet that gives him incredibly good luck.
Lee contributed a one-page synopsis for the show, so by normal naming rights, this should probably be called Neil Biswas's Lucky Man, given Biswas (The Take) developed the synopsis into the series and has written most, if not all of the first season's 10 episodes. However, Sky 1 almost certainly figures the show could do with a boost in the ratings/overseas exports sales through Lee's presence in the show's name since in the scheme of things, Lucky Man is probably on a par with Crime Traveller and other mildly science-fictiony/fantasy TV series without a huge amount of oomph.
Here's a trailer.
James Nesbitt stars as down on his luck cop DI Harry Clayton whose chance encounter with a mysterious woman and an ancient bracelet changes everything. Based on an original idea by Stan Lee.
Is it any good?
The first episode, for those expecting a Stan Lee comic book fun fest, is surprisingly dark. Most of the first episode sees Nesbitt running up a huge gambling debt in a Chinatown casino, being given three days to pay, and then becoming the number one suspect for the murder of said casino's owner. Meanwhile, former Helen of Troy Sienna Guillory (Virtuality, Believe, Fortitude) rides around on a motorbike redistributing the magic bracelet like a magical, leather-clad Dennis More, taking it from a suicide victim to give to Nesbitt, after she decides he's more deserving than the originally intended recipient.
Suicide victim? Why would someone with magical good luck want to kill himself? Turns out that with great power comes great responsibility: for every bit of good luck the owner gets from the bracelet, someone else pays with an equivalent bit of bad luck.
But beyond that dark tone, there's still a fair bit of fun to Lucky Man, too. Biswas puts a great deal of effort into giving Nesbitt's character some depth and charm, as well as into fleshing out friends, families, co-workers and informants, who include Eve Best (Nurse Jackie, The Challenger), Burn Gorman (Torchwood, Turn, The Hour, Forever), Amara Karen (Kidnap and Ransom, Ambassadors), Omid Djalili (The Paul Reiser Show, The Mummy, Jason and the Argonauts) and Darren Boyd (Dirk Gently, Spy).
With Biswas' background on The Take, it's unsurprising the show's almost at pains, as well, to be a police procedural, despite the escapism and the attempts to appeal to the foreign market by giving us the "London police force" rather than the Met. Attempts to appeal to the foreign market also including some quite lovingly beautiful shots of Central London, as well as a moody night time boat chase shoot-out.
So it's not half-bad and you never feel like the show's too stupid to live, despite being on Sky 1. But Stan Lee's one-page treatment didn't include, for the first episode at least, that much by way of superhero escapism beyond that final chase. He may have the power of karma at his fingertips, but Nesbitt doesn't use it to get himself out of trouble or do much except avoid having some bricks fall on his car. He'd be doing accidental parkour within the first ten minutes if this were on Fox in the US, rather than Sky.
To be blunt, Stan Lee's quite old now, James Nesbitt's no spring chicken either, and the show feels like it's a superhero show put together by old men. What Stan Lee and Neil Biswas' Lucky Man really needs is a shot of youthful vigour, since the show feels considered and like it's taking a breather between scenes. It's a lot better than the usual Sky 1 fare, but for a series advertised all over London with moving billboards of Nesbitt dodging bullets, it's really not doing itself any favours by opening with such a slow episode.
In short, it needs a touch of the old, Stan-Lee magic, not the old-Stan-Lee magic.
And, yes, just in case you were wondering, Stan Lee does cameo in the first episode - at Forbidden Planet, no less.
- February 11, 2016: Third-episode verdict: Stan Lee's Lucky Man (UK: Sky1)
A review of the first three episodes of Sky1's Stan Lee's Lucky Man
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