Stan Lee's Lucky Man'sbiggest asset is also its biggest problem - Stan Lee. He came up with the idea for the show, it's his name that probably got the show made and it's that name that will get most viewers tuning in.
Trouble is, as soon as you stick the name Stan Lee in the title, there's a certain expectation there'll be superheroics and super-fun. Unfortunately, in the hands of series writer Neil Biswas (The Take), there's neither.
The show sees James Nesbitt play a cop with a gambling problem who suddenly gets a mystical lucky bracelet that helps him both to win big at the casino and to solve crimes, but at a price to others. There's the occasional bit of supernaturalness thanks to said bracelet, but we're largely talking about things falling on the floor at opportune moments so that Nesbitt can spot there's something under a table, rather than Final Destination-style domino effects resulting in bags of money to fall into Nesbitt's lap. Not at all the time - there's a speedboat chase in episode one and an impressive sprint across a busy motorway in episode two, for example, but that's as superheroic as the show has managed to get.
Rather than superheroics, what we've had in spades instead is Nesbitt moping around, getting upset by his good luck's flipside effects on others, and investigating murders, all while leather-clad motorcylist Sienna Guillory drops by to provide the occasional hint about the bracelet's powers and various members of the police grouch about Nesbitt's supposed corrupt tendencies. An interesting character study mixed with a bit of fantasy and a police procedural? Yes. Something to rival Daredevil? Not in the slightest.
If you keep that in mind, chances are you might enjoy the show. There's a decent enough supporting cast, even if Nesbitt is miscast; the story's not bad and is even a bit edgy; and what supernatural qualities the show does have it does well. It's even got Banshee's 'Albino' (Londoner Joseph Gatt) as the big bad who's after Nesbitt's jewellery.
It's just not the new superhero show you might have been looking for.
Barrometer rating: 2 Would the show be better with a female lead? Yes TMINE's prediction: Unlikely to get a second series unless it gets any overseas sales
In the US: Mondays, 9/8c, Fox In the UK: Tuesdays, Amazon Instant Video
Since the 80s, there's been a move on US TV away from shows about lone heroes towards more ensemble pieces with a core cast of characters. Whether it's to provide variety, to support the number of plots of a long-running season, to give the main actor respite from arduous filming duties, or to hedge bets in case the lead isn't that popular, the trend is clear. When you look at remakes, it becomes even more obvious with formerly hero-centric shows taking on the trappings of ensemble pieces, whether it's Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Night Stalker, Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation or Hawaii Five-O and Hawaii Five-0.
Normally this is by design, so the trouble comes when you forget what kind of show you're making - is it a lone hero show or an ensemble show? Try to make both at the same time and you end up with something that's not good at either.
Lucifer is a case in point. As the name suggests, it's a show about the Devil himself. Adapted from the DC/Vertigo comic, it sees Miranda's Tom Ellis as the bored fallen angel Lucifer Morningstar taking a vacation from Hell in Los Angeles, where he has loads of fun running a night club, shagging and generally tempting mortals. One day, he runs into a police detective (Lauren German) when one of his protégés is murdered, and he starts trying to solve crimes with her so he can keep up his former day job of punishing evil-doers.
It's a somewhat silly idea but as I pointed out in my review of the first episode, it all works largely because of Ellis who's clearly having the time of his life as a decidedly English supporting character from the Old and New Testaments ("I'll rip his bollocks off then stamp on them one at a time"). He alternates between luxuriating in raining down diabolical torture and pain upon anyone who crosses him and camping up to the point you think he's impersonating Kenneth Williams. It's a marvellously engaging performance.
The trouble is that although the show is really all about Lucifer, the comic is more of an ensemble piece. And Lucifer takes on trappings of Lucifer to become partly an ensemble show as well, spending time with German, her young daughter, her ex- (Southland/True Blood/Arrow's Kevin Alejandro), Lucifer's fellow devil Maze (Lesley-Ann Brandt from Spartacus and The Librarians) and Lucifer's therapist/shag partner Rachael Harris (The Hangover, Suits, Surviving Jack). Which would be fine if any of them were in any way interesting or at least having as much fun as Ellis.
Perhaps if the show could also decide not to throw all its moments of characterisation at Lucifer but give each a few scraps from the table, it might be possible to care about them or even like them a little. But it doesn't. The result is you have Ellis, bright and shiny in centre-stage, surrounded by pale shadows who take away from his screen time with their tedious concerns, but don't really add anything except when they're acting as sounding boards and ways to expand on Lucifer's character.
The plots are also a little timid and repetitive. Murder followed by investigation in which Lucifer charms people and gets them to confess their deepest desires, all while German somberly and without any trace of real animation uses various synonyms of 'back off' to stop Lucifer from muscling in on her investigations, which Lucifer then studiously ignores. Even when Lucifer gets up to potentially exciting acts of sin, it's Fox at its tamest: a 'devil's threesome' and a foursome, none of which is ever shown, just the monring after when everyone wakes up with their clothes and underwear still intact.
The show works best when Ellis gets to enjoy himself and the writers provide lines and situations for him to really chow down on the scenery. It also becomes 100% more interesting whenever it's dealing with the supernatural. Interactions with fellow angel DB Woodside, sent by God to convince Lucifer to resume normal duties, give someone for Ellis to really bounce off, while Lucifer's acts of devilish punishment give the show a welcome edge of iron.
But for Lucifer to really work, it needs to decide whether it's an ensemble show or a lone hero show: either drop some of the additional characters to really focus on Lucifer or give them something to do that makes them more than mere stock characters.
Barrometer rating: 3 Would it be better with a female lead? No. Different, but not better TMINE's prediction: Could get a second season but a bit touch and go at the moment and needs to strengthen itself up to avoid a trip to ratings Hell
You know what should be both fun and awesome? DC's Legends of Tomorrow. You know what is instead just a bit limp and unremarkable? DC's Legends of Tomorrow. It's such a disappointment.
It has a great central idea: take all the best supporting characters from both The Flash and Arrow, stick them together as a team, and have them travelling throughout time to defeat an immortal Big Bad. It's a limited series, promising us all kinds of possibilities in terms of character development and mortality. It has elements ripped straight from Doctor Who, right down to having Rory (Arthur Darvill) playing time hunter Rip Torn. It's got a great cast, including the two Prison Break brothers Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell, former Superman Brandon Routh, the kick ass Caity Lotz and the very cool Victor Garber.
But each and every episode, from beginning to end, bar the second, has been nothing except low-budget, comic book escapism of the highest order, with no real significance or import. Even deaths are trivial and a bit meaningless.
Character development is defined as 'starting off a bit mopey/fighty and progressively becoming a bit more/less mopey/fighty'. Fights are a bit poor. Special effects are okay at best. Attempts to recreate a particular time period largely come down to giving everyone some new clothes to wear, while someone hangs up a banner on a Canadian building and hopes everyone will just buy it as 1975/1986/2000 BC. Plots are a bit poor. Dialogue's sometimes okay, but largely not. Acting is frequently hammy and dreadful.
Given all the effort that's been spent on developing the characters in other series, it almost feels like the producers thought it would just be so awesome having everyone together, they didn't need to put any effort into the eventual team-up. Or maybe everyone good was already so tied up with Arrow and The Flash that it was left to the B-team to put together DC's Legends of Tomorrow. Or maybe it's simply because The CW doesn't actually have the budget to put together an entire TV series like The Avengers.
An unthreatening villain facing a not especially inspiring team-up in a series of uninspiring, plot loophole-riddled, joyless episodes of comic strip harmless? Who could resist? Probably not me actually. I'm not loving it, but the idea of not watching it seems odd, simply because of the good members of the cast.
All the same, I really, really wish it was a lot better than it actually is.
Barrometer rating: 3 Would it be better with female leads? N/A TMINE's prediction: Unlikely to get renewed with the current team, but the mooted anthology-type structure with completely different characters could well get traction
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A UK media blog focusing on the best scripted TV from around the world, with daily news, views, exclusive reviews and good conversation. There's a bit of a bias towards the latest and greatest US TV, but we also cover Scandinavian, Canadian, European and Antipodean TV, as well as UK TV ranging from new Doctor Who to old Z Cars, and BBC4 to S4C.
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I'm Rob Buckley, a freelance journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of, although you might have heard me on Radio 5 Live's Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I've edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for trade magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider and the equally short-lived Death Ray and Filmstar magazines; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it "web site for urban hedonists" The Tribe. I'm freelance now and have contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network and TV Scoop.