Third-episode verdict: The Player (US: NBC)

The BarrometerA Barrometer rating of 2

In the US: Thursdays, 10/9c, NBC 
In the UK: Nearly acquired but not quite

‘Regression to the mean’ is one of those laws of statistics that gets bandied around without it necessarily meaning what people think it means. However, I’m beginning to wonder if there isn’t a regression to the mean over at NBC. 

On the face of it, we have two action shows that are basically the best action shows that NBC’s done in a long time. We’re not talking Banshee- or Strike Back-level awesome, despite the presence of both of Strike Back‘s leads in these shows. But for network TV and certainly for NBC, both Blindspot and The Player are top efforts.

Both, however, had problems. Blindspot‘s biggest problems, apart from an incredibly stupid premise, was that it took itself very, very seriously. It lacked any sense of fun. Despite being about a woman with special powers who wakes up amnesiac, naked and tattooed in a bag in Times Square.

The Player, on the other hand, apparently knew it was daft from the outset and was going to have fun. Set in sunny Las Vegas, it sees a man fight crime in order to win bets for rich people. Possessing not only some great stunt coordinators but the martial arts-tastic Wesley Snipes as the ambivalent ‘Pit Boss’ of ‘the game’, The Player was never going to win any awards, but it knew it would have a laugh along the way.

Since those opening episodes, Blindspot has slowly improved, with last night’s episode being its best – and most fun – yet. Poor old Sullivan Stapleton even got to crack a smile.

Meanwhile, The Player has slowly been trying to take itself seriously, despite essentially being Hard Target set in casinos. Angsty Philip Winchester has been getting more angsty, while Snipes has been glowering a lot and has stopped doing his funny characters. Meanwhile, ‘The Dealer’, Charity Wakefield, has implausibly been revealed to be both ex-Royal Marines and ex-SAS. Despite neither the Marines nor the SAS accepting female recruits.

The result is that Blindspot has gone from being an absolute waste of time to being almost preferable to The Player, which has become a bit yawny.

The Player still has a lot going for it, particularly the locale and the cast, but especially its action scenes, which are probably the best on broadcast US TV – its second episode had some outstanding aerial stuntwork. Its ongoing story arcs are moderately intriguing, too, as we learn a little about ‘the game’ and the FBI’s investigations into it, as well as what happened to Winchester’s ex-wife.

But it needs to rediscover the fun it had in the first episode and let Winchester enjoy himself. It also needs to unleash Wesley Snipes. Let him do whatever he wants to do, guys – you’ll be grateful for it.

Barrometer rating: 2
TMINE prediction: If it continues on its current path, it’s liable to get cancelled within a season. But if it can rediscover the fun, there’s no reason it couldn’t make it to two or even three seasons


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; 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. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

    View all posts