Monday , March 4 2024
fx's new John Corbett dramedy.


In the forties, if you had an adventurer gambler for a hero, you made him sophisticated. Take Cary Grant in 1943’s Mr. Lucky: debonair owner of a gambling ship, snappy dresser, master of his own fate. In the early days of television this image still held via a Peter Gunn-inspired teevee series based on the Grant flick (best recalled today as the source of a great Henry Mancini theme song). I thought of both the movie and its small-screen offspring last night while watching John Corbett in the new fx series Lucky.
A half-hour dramedy, the show follows Las Vegan denizen Mike “Lucky” Linkletter: one time winner of a million dollar Pro Poker Championship, now a scrabbling hustler struggling to manage his gambling addiction. One year after his big win, we see him wheedling bonus money from his boss at a used car dealership. His life has gone downhill in a big way, and his late wife’s parents are coming into town expecting the money that he borrowed from them for her funeral. The debut’s core issue is whether he’ll be able to raise the dough without returning to his bettin’ ways. Naturally, the whole world conspires against this.
A set-up like this – likable low-life amidst a world of even more colorful marginal types – is thoroughly dependent on its actors. As a lead, Corbett has an earnest everyguy quality that’s a universe away from Cary Grant. It helps you root for him once he starts sweating, but it works against him every time his character starts doing recovery speak. (In one of the series’ subplots, he takes on sponsorship of an attractive blond Gamblers Anonymous member, and we know that this’ll lead to trouble down the pike.) Fortunately, he’s surrounded by some great character actors: every-ready scumwad Dan Hedaya, playing a mob loan shark, plus Seymour Cassel as a chain-smoking ravaged gambler nicknamed The Trake (for obvious reasons). Billy Gardell and Craig Robinson play Linkletter’s two grifter buds with snap and glee. A scene where Gardell’s Vinny stages a series of fake auto accidents to raise the funeral money is laugh-out-loud funny for its matter-of-fact duplicitousness.
Writers Mark & Robb Cullen have a knack for quirky hardboiled dialog and action that’ll serve this show well if they can sustain it. (Best moment: when Hedaya’s Joe holds Lucky so he can read the funnies on a paper that our hero is using to staunch a bleeding head wound.) Lucky is running in the spot vacated by The Shield, but whether the net’s audience will be able to accommodate the shift from James Ellroy-ish views of life on the street to Elmore Leonard remains to be seen. On the basis of his well-paced debut, I know I’m willing to follow Lucky Linkletter’s travails. The guy may not be suave, but he’s still entertaining.

About Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman is a Books editor for Blogcritics. With his lovely wife Rebecca Fox, he has co-authored a light-hearted fat acceptance romance entitled Measure By Measure.

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