No sense in writing a whole review of the Tilt premiere, as its been done elsewhere and I'm a day late and a penny short. But after watching last night I do have some observations:
As I watched last night I noticed 3 big dissimilarities between watching a dark, gritty drama on ESPN as opposed to HBO. Besides the quality of the acting, writing, and direction. First, no swearing on ESPN, but there's nothing they can do about that. Two, commercial interruptions on ESPN, but there's nothing they can do about that. Three, and this is the big one, HBO doesn't have a running score crawl at the bottom of the screen. I couldn't believe that ESPN still had the bar at the bottom of the screen showing scores and sports news. I'm trying to follow the story and I keep thinking, "ooh, Siena beat Centenary in women's hoops...".
I cannot take seriously a character, who is a grown man and a casino executive, who asks people to call him "Lowball". I don't care if you're the greatest Lowball player in the world, that's not a nickname you would voluntarily use.
I cannot take seriously a character, in a show about poker, with a name like "Miami". Even if the character is a woman. I think the writers bought the book Cliche Poker Nicknames and flipped open a random page.
The show starts by quick-cutting images of Las Vegas, from the Strip to 4th-rate nudie bars and delis and then back to the glitz and glamour. I don't know who invented the quick-cut (Eisenstein?) but he should be put a bag and thrown into a large body of water. The Vegas Strip is one of the greatest spectacles on earth, and it would've been nice to SEE it for more than the .27 seconds it was shown before the inevitable quick-cut to the next image. Quick-cutting is, of course, a valuable tool, but the mere ability to quick-cut does not a good director make.
Daniel Negreanu wrote in his blog that he couldn't believe the bad light that the show puts poker in. I agree, I'm a bit shocked that ESPN, which has made a lot of money televising poker the last 2 years, would make the game look like its populated solely with cheats, lowlifes, scumbags, crooks, psychos, and losers. I'm also a bit shocked that Negreanu, who makes a brief cameo with T.J. Cloutier in the show, had no idea what the show was going to be about. I would've thought that either he would've asked, or the producers would've told him. A lesson for us all--if you're asked to make a cameo in a TV show or film, get a copy of the script first. We should all add that to our New Year's Resolutions.
If I sit down in a poker game, and there's a 12-year-old girl sitting there with thousands of bucks in front of her, I get up and leave. Because I'm either going to take a karmic battering winning a little kids' money, or she's some sort of savant who's going to drive away in my car at the end of the night. Either way, I'm goin' home.
If the patter at Vegas poker tables is as annoying, predicable, and banal as it was in this show, I may take up hopscotch. Are we going to be subjected to a whole season of, "I don't think you have it...raise!" "I think you just gave something away...re-raise!" "Re-raise, huh? How much you got in front of you?" Blah blah blah blah blah blah. There were a few good lines in the show, but none of them came at the poker table. Well, the guy pulling the bigger gun and saying "re-raise" was a good one. Actually, that guy made a bigger impression on me in that one little scene than the 3 main characters did in the whole show.
Michael Madsen was good, but this a role that he could really have some fun with, but in the first episode we learn that he's a sadist, he's a card-cheat, he's a lousy casino executive, and yet he's presented as this nearly omniscient Vegas operator. We'll have to see if he rounds into Tony Soprano-like complexity or Homer Simpsonesque cartoonishness.
I do agree with the "Matador" that all men's rooms should come with hot and cold running strippers.
Enough. I could go on but I've gone on long enough. I played some poker myself last night, losing about $8 on a hand where I was dealt pocket aces and could not keep 5 other players from coming along with me all the way to the river, where I was run down in the end by 2 pair. But I won it all back plus an extra seventy-five cents when I went runner-runner to fill in a full house. At that point I chose to withdraw and go to bed.
Pretty much the whole city is still in blissful disbelief that the Steelers will be playing in the AFC title game next week. Pittsburgh's had a tough year, the city declared bankruptcy, we had massive flooding from Hurricane Ivan, there's been little good news to distract from some pretty serious problems. The Steelers have given everyone something to talk about, something good everyone can enjoy together. Had they lost yesterday...it would've sent the whole city into a profound depression. Instead we all still have hope. And it feels good.