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

  • GYAD

    “Despite neither the Marines nor the SAS accepting female recruits.”

    Plus, if she was RM she'd have gone SBS anyway (if they took women that is).

  • Indeed. I was going to put something about their being in different services and not being like the US Army Rangers and Delta*, but thought the point was starting to get out of control, so decided to dial down the nitpicking.

    To be scrupulous fair, she only claims to have been in both each for six months for the sniper training. Plus it might be an in joke somehow since Philip Winchester played an ex-SBS guy in Strike Back. But I couldn't work out what the joke would be in that case.

    * Although, the US Marines is a completely different service from both the US Navy and Army, so why they'd have simply assumed Marines and SAS worked that way I don't know.

  • GYAD

    I imagine it's the usual laziness. I mean, it's not like you have to join those units to go to sniper school.

    Interestingly the Americans do let women into JSOC (TF Orange, DevGru's Black Squadron, the ODA's cultural advisers and – I forget what it's called – Delta's humint unit), it's just that they aren't assaulters. I've heard rumours that the SAS's E Squadron might also have some women (for cover/intel, not fully badged).

  • benjitek

    I like how Blindspot has worked what I initially thought was going to be a tattoo/crime-of-the-week episodic show into having it all be part of an overall story arc. My favorite so far is Ashley Johnson — wish she'd rub off on Sullivan Stapleton and infuse him with some acting skills.

  • Interesting. Of course, there are all the headlines about the women passing the Rangers exams:

    Even if they can't be Rangers at the end of it:

    Either way, Charity Wakefield is unlikely to pass any special forces or commando entrance exams. I can imagine her doing well at general shooting, though. Can't imagine why they simply didn't say that she'd be 'an Olympic hopeful' or something – even Limitless can do that.

  • Ashley Johnson's good – I don't know if they picked her because of The Avengers but I've not seen her in anything else. But her job is the new cliche: female tech geek who makes all the jokes while everyone else is serious (cf NCIS, Arrow).

    But Blindspot is definitely getting better, even if it has some ways to go. I'm not that surprised, it being a Greg Berlanti production, just more surprised it didn't start off being funnier/better

  • GYAD

    From what I've read, the Ranger story is a bit of a fiction; the women were given lots of extra help to make sure that some passed, so the top brass would get nice headlines.

    The women who are in SOF are largely there for cultural support or human intelligence. But they are there…

    But yes, I don't think she's a likely candidate for selection. Your Olympic shooter idea is much better – both more plausible and fresh – than theirs.

  • I think the stories about it being a fiction might well be the stories.

    Hard to know without being there, of course, but I think “not helped” is more likely than “were helped” on balance.

  • GYAD

    Seen that one. It's nearly impossible to say because it's clear the top brass were pushing for a particular result.

    There's a lot of good material here:

    Most of the rest is RUMINT.

  • I'm not sure how unbiased and lacking in agenda a site that uses the phrase “lesbo-wiccan coven” can be, but I'll look it over…

  • benjitek

    Have never watched NCIS, and unable to endure Arrow's excessive storytelling-via-flashbacks, I guess I haven't seen enough of the the female-tech-geek for it to be a cliche. This is the first thing I've seen her in myself — I just like the way she portrays the character…

  • They're all over the place nowadays:

  • benjitek

    Don't know what her job title is in the show, assumed she was a high-ranking analyst and not tech-support. Maybe because I used to do tech support. She doesn't come across as geeky to me.

    Liking how they've made her intuitive and compassionate — and enjoyed the glimpse of her life outside the office.

  • GYAD

    Hognose definitely isn't unbiased… but he does have great sources.

  • I think Blind Spot highlights that it's no longer “tech support geek girl” but “science geek girl”. Johnson's job is basically “say science things”, without having any obvious speciality – she does DNA analysis, cryptography et al. Whatever science, engineering or maths the show needs.

    And that's basically what Felicity does in Arrow (although her role has considerably expanded since the AV Club article). It's also what the two women do in Rosewood, say. There's one who's a 'toxicologist', who does whatever forensic things Rosewood doesn't do, and there's one who is 'quirky and looks into a microscope a lot'.

    I like Johnson and her character, but she's obviously in this 'science geek girl' role – she has a wall of board games, including Catan. I've got Catan. You have to be a major nerd to play Catan.

  • benjitek

    Whatever she is, she's not a cliche… I noticed the AVClub site you linked to coincidentally mentions her as his favorite in the review of Blindspot…

  • AVClub's a multi-author site: Joshua Alston does the Blindspot reviews, but Samantha Nelson wrote the geek girl article.

    Johnson's character doesn't quite fit the cliché yet because she isn't quirky enough to be the cliché – she lightens the place up but doesn't yet tell any/many gags. See how it goes. She is the most interesting of the characters, though, that's for sure.

  • benjitek

    Do you recommend that site? Hadn't heard of it before yesterday…

  • I do. The reviews are usually pretty good and if I ever want a second opinion on something, that's where I usually go.

    News is basically pulled from other sites, but they do lots of fun, quirky things, too, like 'Great Job Internet' –

  • JustStark

    You have to be a major nerd to play Catan

    Not nowadays — nowadays major nerds play Dominion (there were periods in the

    middle where it was Carcassonne and then Agricola*)

    The 'science girl' thing is a fairly obvious example of the 'attempt to make a stereotype look different by changing one thing (in this case, sex) only for that to be so obvious and widespread it quickly becomes a stereotype itself'.

    * Which I cannot help pronouncing to rhyme with 'Radio Musicola'.

  • Not 'Ports of Essen' and 'Textile Merchant' (Norfolk Edition)?

  • benjitek

    Thanks — will add the RSS feed, though this site will remain >the< definitive of it's type for me 🙂

  • JustStark

    They are so September '13.

  • Thanks!

  • benjitek

    …although I've come to hate the month of August — let's rethink that vacation thing… 😉

  • There's a lot to be said for an Internet-free August. Still, I'll really know I have an influence when people schedule their own vacations to coincide with mine* 😉

    *Or you might all turn out to be secretly French, of course

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