NBC strikes again. Once more the network has killed a show before it really got started and just as the pace and interest level seemed to be increasing exponentially. The Player has been “Constantine-d” and shut down at nine episodes. Although Constantine was allowed to finish up 13 episodes instead of being halted mid-run. (It could be said that The Player has met the same fate as Joss Whedon’s Firefly which was also abruptly stopped mid-season).
Rather interestingly, the NBC series was on the up. Figures showed that, presumably due to what the series faced in terms of competition, DVR viewing was rising. Considering that the show was up against sports and is a “male” oriented series, this should have been seen as a positive sign. It seems that those in charge of programming do not realize that Wesley Snipes, Philip Winchester or the gorgeous and talented Charity Wakefield were never going to pull viewers from a live sports event.
While the first episode was a little lackluster (mainly because of a lack of Snipes, whom the show’s producers seemed reluctant to allow too much screen time) the merits of Wakefield, who was by far the most interesting character, were obvious.
By the second episode, it was apparent that Damon Gupton’s character had been poorly written, making his “best friend” role to Philip Winchester’s Alex Kane (the Player) an odd fit. Snipes had more of a presence and Wakefield ruled the episode (as indeed she has pretty much ruled them all).
The third episode increased the action and the inter-action. The show was hitting its stride as the actors found their roles more comfortable and in turn made their characters feel more realistic. The mystery of Ginny became a constant and increasingly highlighted thread that allowed the delightful Daisy Betts to maintain a presence.
The Player has a male lead, Winchester, who learned how to do action scenes convincingly on the UK series Strike Back, and is a good “all rounder” who could produce tears and sport some very powerful acting chops. Philip is more than an athletic actor, he is an actor full stop.
As is Snipes. While the star has major martial arts skills, he also has more than his share of thespian talent. Wakefield has the ability to captivate the screen whenever she is in front of the camera and easily became the focus of attention.
So what went wrong?
It could be a number of things. The location for instance. With a setting of Las Vegas, where a number of second unit shoots are used for each episode to continue the illusion that the show is not really shot in LA, with exteriors done sans actors (mostly) on an ad hoc basis, may be expensive to maintain.
The stunts, which for the small screen are very impressive, may also be a bit costly to continue. After all, once a standard has been set, the show’s producers cannot cut back. Especially on a show with “limited” viewers already.
Snipes may want more freedom. The star is a film actor and not accustomed to the rigors of television work. Hence his “limited” presence on the show initially. It could even come down to price tag. How much does it cost to put Snipes through his paces on a weekly basis?
In all likelihood, this appears to be a case of impatience on the part of NBC. Just as it was with Constantine, and, ultimately, with Hannibal cancelled after three seasons because viewing figures were not what the network wanted. The thing these two other show’s had in common was an “outside the box” mentality of the producers.
The Player was likened to Person of Interest (CBS) and while the latter series is still going strong, although it is rumored this last season is the last, the show’s may be the same “at the core” but the delivery is different. Sadly, this will not matter to those in the NBC version.
It really does feel like NBC should stand for “No Bloody Clue” (pardon the language) when it comes to letting a new series hit its stride. The Player was hitting all the marks and even Damon Gupton was starting to feel like a good fit. Despite a cast that were becoming an enjoyable team and episodes that were becoming addictive NBC have killed the show by cutting it off at nine episodes.
Unlike Constantine‘s Matt Ryan (as the main protagonist) who will at least have a small resurgence in CW’s The Arrow, The Player will have no such “second chance.” There has been no news of the show being taken up by Netflix or Hulu, or even another network, so the show is just as dead as the series’ player before Alex Kane.
The Player airs Thursdays on NBC for at least another four episodes. After which it will either fade into obscurity or get picked up by another network. Tune in to see what NBC has thrown away.