Monday, October 25, 2010

Lucky (2003): Folded Before It's Time

This series JUST missed the cut when I wrote last month's entry in Alex J. Cavanaugh's Top 10 Favorite T.V. Shows bloghop, in which I listed my favorite series canceled before their time. Back in 2003, FX started a campaign of releasing more adult focused original series and one of the shows was a half-hour black comedy entitled Lucky. The name of the show is based off the lead character Michael "Lucky" Linkletter played perfectly by John Corbett (My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Northern Exposure, The Messengers).

The pilot begins with Lucky winning a million dollars at the Pro Poker Players Tournament in Sin City and vowing to marry his girlfriend. Time elapses and we learn that poor Lucky lost of all his money, is now a car salesman and more importantly his girlfriend, who he did marry, died. Lucky's given up gambling (he attends Gamblers Anonymous) and had to borrow money to fund his dead wife's funeral. Making matters worse is that the money he borrowed came from his deceased wife's parents.

In hopes of paying back her folks, Lucky tries to borrow money from some shady Vegas loan shark, played by the always impressive Dan Heyada, but he demands Lucky gambles in some shady deals to earn the dough. Things get more depressing when a character who owes Lucky money called The Trake (he has a tracheotomy tube in his neck), falls into a coma. Even when his two gambling buddies Vinny (Billy Gardell) and Mutha (Craig Robinson of The Office) are able to help him with some scams to get the money, he gets robbed. With his back firmly against the wall, Lucky gives into the loan shark's offer, even though he has sworn to never return and be engulfed by that lifestyle again. Rounding out the main characters is Theresa, played by Ever Carradine (Dead and Breakfast), a real estate agent with a serious gambling addiction that he meets at his Gamblers Anonymous sessions. Not only does he become her love interest, but also her sponsor.

The show only lasted for one short season, which included the "subplot of the week" format along with Lucky and his pals running scams and gambling at some low level casinos to regain the money he owed. He also struggles with conflict of submitting to his addiction once again. He also has to hide his table-hopping from Theresa who wants Lucky to stay on the straight and narrow no matter what the cost. One thing that could have benefited the show would have been making each episode an hour because some plot lines felt rushed and could have easily been more fleshed out.

The first and only season ends with Lucky having no choice but to enter the same tournament he won in the pilot to pay off his debts and quit gambling once and for all. Unfortunately, Theresa finds out and confronts him as he enters the final round. Even after he explains his situation, it is unsure whether Theresa understands and supports him. Lucky wins the tournament again and soon becomes full of happiness and relief until he notices that Theresa had left the casino, and symbolically leaving him in the process. When an interviewer asks him how he feels now that he won the money in back-to-back years, he lets out an extremely despondent and solemn, "I feel...Lucky", now that he lost his someone he loved once again. This established a major cliffhanger that was never resp loved due to the abrupt cancellation following the season finale.

Corbett starred as great characters in big projects such as Serendipity (where he played Kate Beckinsale's hilarious musician love interest, Lars Hammond), My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Sex and the City, The Visitor, and Northern Exposure, but Michael "Lucky" Linkletter is his best role to date from an execution standpoint...with his role of Lars as a close second. The role fit him very naturally and he was extremely likable. The supporting cast was also phenomenal and gave a very "real" feeling to the show.

Along with the cast's incredible chemistry, the dialogue was great and there was a never a boring episode. But the ratings were not the best, considering the show's poor marketing and the fact that FX did not have the credentials they have now to produce legitimate programming. Also hindering the show was that it debuted right before the poker boom. It truly was ahead of its time. If this show debuted in 2010, it would've been a hit. It was replaced by Nip/Tuck, a program that became a major success, and for some odd reason, I never watched that show because my weird mind somehow blamed that show for Lucky's demise.

There is no DVD release as of yet, which is quite sad, and I am not sure if there will ever be enough of a demand to warrant one. If you are lucky (no pun intended) enough to find a way to track down and view the full season, you won't be disappointed.

An interesting side note, Corbett turned down the T.V. series spin-off of Greek Wedding to star in this series. Even though Lucky only lasted a season, it definitely ran longer than Greek and at least received some critically acclaimed mentions and an Emmy nomination. This was the better of two evils for him...and definitely a better idea than his venture into country music.

Another side note was that I loved playing the Lucky game on FX's website. The game was almost like Grand Theft Auto, where you played as Lucky, Vinny and Mutha, wondering the casino and playing table games to help Lucky win back the money. It was a lot of fun for a simple website game.

Thanks for joining me in this trip down memory lane and please leave me some comments if you have ever seen the show and tell me what you thought of it. Finding Lucky fans are about as easy as holding your breath for an hour. But do some Google searches and you'll find I am not alone in believing just how underrated this show really is.


Copyboy said...

I sooo remember this. I even watched an episode or two. But yeah, Nip/Tuck overshadowed it for good reason. FYI...I even watched the other card one with Mike M. – Tilt.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Networks just don't give shows a chance now. Of course, had this been on NBC or ABC, it wouldn't have made it past two episodes.

TS Hendrik said...

I vaguely remember it, but I never watched it. Sounds depressing in the best of ways. Hopefully it'll get a dvd release so I can check it out. Cancelled TV is always the best.

Geof said...

Copyboy - stay tuned. I already had Tilt in mind for a retro review. I liked that show and glad ti received a proper conclusion. This is WAY different than that.

Alex - that's true. This was way beyond what the networks had on the air and I agree would not have lasted the full season.

TS - the only DVDs you can get are bootlegs unfortunately. FX still will not release it for some reason, even with Craig Robinson's recent fame.

Anonymous said...

I remember Lucky and I was so impressed that I taped the Lucky marathon, and the following last shows. Still have them, and I still view them. One of the greatest shows ever. Who knows what season 2 would have been like. Lucky, Vinnie, Mutha, The Trake, "Dick" the bartender, Teresa, Joey Legs, Raise Diner, Amy or Pam or ???. Great show.

Geof said...

Anon - A mystery we will never learn. Thanks for taking time to check out my post and lucky you (no pun intended) for having them all at your disposal. I can't wait for a DVD...IF FX ever decides to release one.

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