It’s been a while since we’ve had a “money changes people” show but NBC’s Windfall cheerfully revives the format for the post-Lost age, complete with a large range of words with capital letters. It’s not fantastic writing, but it’s good enough to keep the interest over the summer and may well develop into something better.
It’s party time somewhere in the US and a group of friends, all with Very Important Problems, are drowning their sorrows. Cunning plan of the evening is a large pot into which anyone can put a dollar towards the state Lotto. Is that an American thing, Lotto parties, or merely a narrative device so that we can have an ensemble cast like Lost? I don’t know, but it seems an odd idea either way.
Anyway, wouldn’t you know it? One of the lucky lines comes up and the group is $386 million the richer (on only five numbers – clearly we’re being shortchanged with our system’s odds and jackpots).
With tax, etc, that means 21 people, including the pizza delivery girl, now have nearly $20 million dollars they didn’t have the day before (I know. If you do the maths it doesn’t seem to work out. But those are the numbers. Maybe couples are sharing their allotted wins). Cue inordinate amounts of jumping around whooping and waving arms in the air, impulse purchases of Mercedes when rubbish car breaks down outside a dealership, etc. Clearly, that’s just the beginning though, and this is going to Change Their Lives. But for good or for better?
With 21 people (not all of whom get their Very Important Problems explained), there’s bound to be a broad spectrum of issues and since it’s television, none of them are the same. We have the minor with the hard-to-please father; the married woman having an affair with a married man; a murderer who works in a flower store and cannot reveal his true identity; the couple undergoing a divorce who bicker over who gets what share; potentially thieving Russian mail-order brides and so on. It’s to the show’s credit that all these scenarios don’t seam totally stale, but it would have been nice to have seen some different scenarios from the norm, such as a pair of fundamentalist Christians who decide to use their winnings for good works or a pair of Muslims who set up an Islamic bank for their friends. You know, something different.
Most of the cast are unknowns, although 24 fans will spot Sarah Wynter – Jack Bauer’s squeeze from season two – as the Slightly Dull Wife Who Could Soon Be Jilted Now Her Husband Has Money; Murder One aficionados will recognise that bloke who played Neil Avadon in the good first season; and Luke Perry finally sheds his 90210 image to play the Slightly Dull Husband Who Could Soon Be Jilted Now His Wife Has Money.
There is enough plot to make future episodes worth watching for a while, as we try to work out Russian bride’s game, whether murderer is trustworthy or untrustworthy, whether husband and wife will leave wife and husband, and so on. I’m not saying it’s going to be spectacularly thrilling. But as a summer filler, we could do worse. On the other hand, if it airs in the UK in winter, give it a wide berth because it’ll be like watching The OC on Ovaltine.