Lucky 7 is yet another translation of British television for American audiences, and it’s about par for the course. While some efforts (mostly long ago and far away, with the exception of The Office) have come together to create long-lived, and beloved series, this isn’t an avenue of series creation that has a solid, recent track record.
Based on the British show, The Syndicate, it’s the story of a group of coworkers at a gas station who have been playing the same numbers for years, and fear for the jobs as rumors abound that the station is closing. All with their own monetary woes, which are laid out for us in great detail, this rag tag assortment of characters is about to find out that there are a lot of problems that come with their sudden riches.
The main trouble this show is going to have is in the translation of format. The Syndicate, like a lot of British shows, was a short-form series, designed purposely to run for five episodes with clear aims and plot development. In fact, a second series shifted altogether, and focused on hospital workers. In similar fashion to Lucky 7, everyone had their big problem that a sack of cash would fix, and everyone found out that it didn’t exactly make the world all rainbows and unicorns. But, we knew what we were saying, why and how we were saying it, and we knew where we would end up.
The lack of an end is obvious, but the lack of a beginning is even more important in terms of Lucky 7‘s ability to capture and hold viewers. We have almost an anti-pilot here, as our first episode does nothing but lay out the complex web that makes up the lives of our key players, and we suffer through an inordinately dramatic run of their problems considering that we all know they’re about to win the lottery. Some establishment may be necessary, but what we’ve put together here is a somewhat confused effort at making the audience connect emotions with characters we don’t care about yet, and are distanced from by the premise. That may be a lot to take in, but if you watch the pilot you’ll understand. Where the British show didn’t make such a massive play at the circumstances our crew were in to start, largely letting the idea that life without lottery winnings wasn’t something we had to hammer home, this version overplays it, and it leaves you wanting them to just get on with it. We don’t necessarily have to kick every puppy in town.
Worse, with the possible exception of Luis Antonio Ramos, none of the characters engage, nor do they get a chance to work effectively. We’re dancing around so many stories at once that we can’t get far with any of them.
This is a tricky effort at best, but with viewers being the fickle lot they are, it’s a pilot that gives you no clue about what’s coming, and that’s a tough sell. It’s escalated by the fact that this is not a show with a clear endgame. When we come out of the gates asking for you to stick with it for five episodes, it isn’t that hard to let the characters have a more open space in our minds, and you’ll probably play along if things move enough. As a full series, we have no idea where things are headed in such a framework, and we’re hard-pressed to care with no life in the pilot.
Like many Americanizations, Lucky 7 doesn’t seem to know (at least, at this point) what was so good about the original. It was an excuse to have a character study, and it played around with a variety of angles that showcased the idea that money didn’t solve your problems, and mostly made things worse in a lot of ways. That may be what we’re after here, but it doesn’t look like what we’re going to get.
On the plus side, Lucky 7 is this season’s show I most hope I’m wrong about. However much the pilot may not have worked for me, by way of something akin to pretending to do what it thought it was doing, I’m holding out that the next episode will run with all that set-up we had to make it through. If it delivers, this could come together, but I wonder if it has the chemistry to last long enough to really get a hold on viewers.
Nestled in the culturally diverse neighborhood of Astoria, the Gold Star Gas N’ Shop is home to a surrogate family of co-workers whose lives will be transformed by an unexpected lottery win. Aside from the money, relationships will change as the trust between two brothers will be uprooted, budding romances will develop and secrets will come to the surface. Matt Korzak (Matt Long) could get his very pregnant girlfriend, Mary Lavecchia (Christine Evangelista), and their other child out of his mother’s house with some desperately needed cash.
Matt’s brother, Nicky (Stephen Louis Grush), an ex-con, could pay off a dangerous debt and pursue the huge crush he has on co-worker Samira Lashari (Summer Bishil). Samira, a second-generation Pakistani immigrant and a talented musician, could finally afford to go to her dream school, Juilliard.
Denise Dibinksy (Lorraine Bruce), the tender-hearted Gold Star cashier, is struggling to lose weight and regain her former glory, but the winnings could provide an opportunity for her to rebuild her crumbling marriage. Leanne Maxwell (Anastasia Phillips), a young single mother, will try to keep her past hidden despite the spotlight the lottery win puts on her. Bob Harris (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.), the store’s manager and quite possibly the nicest man in the world, wants to buy the Gold Star and make it into the perfect workplace he always imagined. And cheerful and charming Antonio Clemente (Luis Antonio Ramos) will discover ways to capitalize on the group’s win in order to give his wife, Bianca (Alex Castillo), and their three kids a whole new life.
Now that their circumstances have changed, the “Lucky 7″ will need to overcome obstacles, reach down deep to examine their values and find out who they really are if they’re to enjoy their newfound wealth. You’d think they have millions of reasons to celebrate — but will they? “Lucky 7″ stars Summer Bishil (“Towelhead”) as Samira Lashari, Lorraine Bruce (“Eden Lake”) as Denise Dibinksy, Alex Castillo as Bianca Clemente, Christine Evangelista as Mary Lavecchia, Stephen Louis Grush (“Detroit 1-8-7″) as Nicky Korzak, Matt Long (“Private Practice”) as Matt Korzak, Anastasia Phillips (“Stoked”) as Leanne Maxwell, Luis Antonio Ramos (“The Ruins”) as Antonio Clemente and Isiah Whitlock, Jr. (“The Wire”) as Bob Harris.