Winning the lottery isn't actually rich territory for televisual exploration. (Get ready for plenty of lottery puns.) It's been done before, notably on The Syndicate, the British show Lucky 7 was based on, as well as on NBC's late drama Windfall. There's an understandable urge to see how money changes ordinary folk, and as times continue to be tough it's certainly easy to relate to the desire to win big.
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The problem with Lucky 7 isn't with the unoriginal premise, but with the characters who populate the show. As the pilot comes to a close, most of the characters remain one-dimensional stereotypes. There's the sassy fat woman trying to lose weight, the Indian girl with strict parents looking to set her up for an arranged marriage, and the reformed criminal who might not be so reformed after all. With seven characters to establish in just the first hour, there's barely enough time to make each character memorable.
The problem is that the premise of the show basically demands we invest and care about these characters. Sure, there is that in media res beginning so terribly, terribly trendy with all the ABC fall shows. But frankly the pilot never circles back around to it, to the point where I had completely forgotten the beginning teaser until I skimmed through a second time. If you're setting up a central mystery on a new show, you might want to take some narrative time to make us care about (and remember) what that mystery is.
Another big problem in the pilot is pacing, which appears all over the place. The pilot is both fast paced and incredibly and frustratingly slow. It zips from character to character setting up central struggles but leaves the biggest plot point on the table. Basically, if you have a drama about lottery winners called Lucky 7, it feels like it shouldn't take you so long to get to the actual lottery winning segment of the show.
The show was clearly trying to set up the central characters and their struggles before throwing them into the deep end. Yet by the end of the hour most of the characters only have the dull hint of a storyline in place, and most of those stories don't seem like they'll be particularly interesting.
There is some stuff to like about Lucky 7 though. The actors making up the main contingent of winners are all likable enough and with expanded material might just impress. As all of the main characters are workers at a gas station in Queens, New York, it's a nice departure from the "rich people problems" shows that have continually plagued the dial in recent years.
Look, I love me a good Revenge or Gossip Girl as much as the next person, but seeing characters with problems beyond backstabbing and designer shoes is a welcome respite. So too is seeing a cast with a bit of diversity, once again helped by the more working class setting of the gas station. Getting out of the Hamptons and into the nitty gritty of NYC allows the show to tell different stories than its ABC brethren, and that's certainly a fresh breath of air.
Whether Lucky 7 sinks or swims at this point relies entirely on what happens next. The pilot certainly wasn't enough to impress me and keep me coming back for more. But plenty of good shows emerged from shaky starts. And sure, the one-note stereotype characters might give me pause, but apparently the British original employed a format which focused on one character per episode.
I doubt a sudsy drama on ABC will take a huge narrative chance like that, and nothing in the pilot seems to point to the show having such wide ambitions. Yet that format might actually work as a fix to the character problems of the pilot, a way to deepen and dimensionalize a substantial cast.
Lucky 7 might not have impressed with the pilot, but there are enough elements to make a watchable show if the creative team plays the right numbers. It might not ever hit the jackpot, but there may be a decent show in there somewhere.
What do you think? Are you looking forward to Lucky 7? Sound off in the comments!