Lucky 7 – Series Premiere – Recap: No Money, Mo’ Problems
Recap and review of Lucky 7 – Series Premiere – Pilot:
Well, they can’t all be winners. Lucky 7 is a mess. It’s not awful, and there’s definitely room for improvement, but this pilot is an uninspired jumble of broad characterizations and cliches that do nothing to inspire confidence in the series going forward. The premise itself isn’t a bad one, and the series premiere has rare moments of genuine interest, but it’s discouraging when a show fails to put its best foot forward.
The premise is simple enough: seven coworkers at a New York gas station, each with his or her own families, personal problems and financial issues, routinely enter the lottery together, hoping that one day they’ll hit the jackpot and split their fortune among one another. Naturally, they win the lottery, but that moment only comes after a half hour of contrivances. There’s real drama that could be mined out of this premise, particularly with times as tough as they are. Yet the premiere couches its entire narrative in moments of over-the-top drama, elevating scenarios from relatable to melodramatic. The cast is talented enough, though the characters are too broadly-drawn to leave much of a positive impression: there’s friendly housewife Denise (Lorraine Bruce), mechanic Antonio (Luis Antonio Ramos), single mom Leanne (Anastasia Phillips), manager Bob (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.), stock girl Samira (Summer Bishil), and brothers Matt (Matt Long) and Nicky Korzak (Stephen Louis Grush). It’s this latter pair that gets the lion’s share of the screentime. Matt is an expectant father with a pregnant girlfriend named Mary (Christine Evangelista) who is at the end of her rope where Matt’s money issues are concerned, as she no longer wants to live with his overbearing family. Things quickly escalate when Mary goes into labor and gives birth to their daughter earlier than either had prepared for, leaving them with a new mouth to feed before Matt has earned enough money for a new apartment. To make matters worse, he might not even be able to keep his job, as Bob informs him that the owners of the gas station are thinking of selling the property to a chain. In a fit of desperation, Matt agrees to help ex-convict Nicky in stealing $9,000 from the gas station safe while making it look like a robbery.
The robbery itself is the one inspired moment of the episode, as it starts out as pure theater for the security cameras. But it gradually gets out of hand as Nicky gets irritated with how long it’s taking Matt to get the money, and even though it’s only a toy gun Nicky is brandishing, the robbery is clearly very real at this point, all the more so when Bob walks in on the incident, forcing Nicky to bash him over the head with a bottle to cover it up. For all anyone knows, Matt wasn’t involved in the robbery, but the NYPD detective assigned to the case is immediately suspicious. For his part, Matt is weighted with guilt and is considering turning himself in, but Denise suddenly bursts into the Korzak household with huge news. Matt is terrified, believing she’s about to tell them that Bob has died. But that’s not the case at all. As she reveals, the numbers they’ve been playing for years have finally hit. They’ve won the lottery. They’re all rich as kings.
The story then flashes back to show us the winning moment, and the lottery drawing itself plays out like a weird parody of a drawing, with a comically over-the-top announcer who over-inflects on every syllable while Denise, Leanne and others wait with baited breath to find out if they’ve won. When the moment comes, everyone erupts in celebration. Samira’s family is ecstatic, despite her father earlier wanting to set her up in an arranged marriage with a doctor whom she’s never met. Leanne and her daughter freak out on their couch. Meanwhile, Denise celebrates while having dinner alone, neglected by a husband who stopped caring after she suffered a miscarriage. But not everyone has cause for celebration, as Antonio has to break the harsh news to his wife, who has filled their tiny apartment with well-wishers, that he stopped buying into the lottery pool long ago, and that he has no claim to the money whatsoever. The episode is filled with such ironic misfortune, as Matt also stands to be cut out of the winnings since Denise covered him for the price of his share of the ticket, and the rules stipulate that each member of the pool must contribute their own money to the purchase of the winning ticket. This results in Matt’s right to the money being put to a vote. If the pool elects to include him, then he’ll be entitled to a share. If not, then he’s out.
The vote splits 2-2, and the show doesn’t bother waiting until the end of the episode to put doubt into who voted for whom, as the surefire nature of Nicky’s vote is silently called into question in Matt’s mind. But he gets a portion of the money anyway, as Bob wakes from his coma and casts the tiebreaking vote, deciding to include Matt in the pool because he’s “a good kid,” not realizing the part Matt played in his injury. It’s an overwrought sequence made all the more incongruous by the fleet nature with which it’s treated. Nothing is allowed to sink in, as the show keeps up the kind of breakneck pace that would be fine for an action drama or a high-concept procedural, but not for the kind of character study this show is purporting itself to be. Nothing resonates here the way it should, and while it’s partially the fault of the material, the distractingly exaggerated New York accents of some of the actors don’t help, as they border on cartoonish at certain points.
Yet, with all that said, there are some indications that the show will take on a more confident structure in subsequent episodes, as the groundwork is laid for some of the conflicts that will inform the season: did Nicky vote against Matt? Will Matt be able to come to terms with his guilt over the robbery? Will Bob find out? Those are the surface level questions, but there are other plots brewing for the future, such as the love triangle between Nicky, Samira and the handsome doctor her parents attempt to set her up with, in addition to the implosion of Denise’s marriage and the hints of possible infidelity between Matt and Leanne. But those plot points still need more nuanced writing and acting to carry off, and the only performance that really sticks is Luis Antonio Ramos, who effectively serves as the heart of the series. His fake-out speech to the other lottery winners, in which he pretends to be angry at them before revealing that he’s happy for his “family,” is the best scene of the entire episode. Antonio is the only person who feels like a three-dimensional character, and it’ll be interesting to see what the show does with its one heartfelt ace-in-the-hole. We already have some idea of what the show will do with Nicky and Matt, as the pilot opens with an incongruous flashforward that shows the brothers on the run from pursuing police cars. It’s a jarring bit of business that’s never brought up again, and I’m stumped as to why it was included, other than to provide a hook to prevent viewers from changing the channel within the first thirty seconds.
As the episode comes to a close, with Matt speaking up for the other winners by saying how “lucky” they all are, the question remains of just how the series is going to sustain itself with the fairly rote premise of money ruining everything. While Lucky 7 is miles upon miles away from the worst thing I’ve seen, I don’t exactly have loads of confidence that the series will right itself or do anything novel with its narrative. But then, series have turned themselves around from worse pilots than this. It should be intriguing, at the very least, to see if Lucky 7 is capable of such a feat.