The out-of-nowhere success of “Lost” in 2004-05 spawned a bunch of shows that attempted to replicate its formula in one way or another. There were the obvious, sci fi-tinged shows like ABC’s “Invasion,” CBS’ “Threshold” and NBC’s “Heroes” that looked to capitalize on a perceived appetite for “Lost’s” more fantastical elements.
Some others, though, ditched the supernatural and went for the human side of “Lost”: following characters who were bound together by a life-changing event. Shows like “The Nine,” “Reunion” and to a lesser extent “Six Degrees” (which eschewed the “life-changing event” part to explore other, more esoteric connections). What they all had in common was that, with the exception of “Heroes” for its first couple of seasons, none of them really clicked with viewers.
ABC’s new series “Lucky 7,” which premieres at 10 p.m. ET Tuesday (Sept. 24), calls to mind those earlier shows, both for the way it’s set up and for the unfortunate fact that it never quite jells. The story of seven gas-station employees from Queens who win a lottery jackpot features some strong work by several members of its cast, but the overall story isn’t as compelling as some of its parts.
“Lucky 7” is an adaptation of a British series called “The Syndicate.” (It also brings to mind “Windfall,” another post-“Lost” show about lottery winners that aired on NBC in the summer of 2006.) One of the British show’s cast members, Lorraine Bruce, stars in the ABC version as well. Her story is one of the more compelling ones in the pilot — her character, Denise, is stuck in a marriage to a husband who no longer seems interested, and she’s hoping that losing weight and changing her appearance will help. Bruce brings just the right amount of pathos to her character without tipping over into treacly territory.
The other standout character is Antonio (Luis Antonio Ramos), a mechanic at the station whose family is overjoyed upon hearing about the group’s lottery win. There’s one problem, though: Instead of buying into the pool for the past several months, Antonio has been taking the money and putting it into savings. He was making what he thought was the responsible move, but now it’s cost his family millions and engendered a lot of bitterness.
The stoic Antonio professes nothing but happiness for his co-workers, but Ramos also shows he’s haunted by his decision. It’s a very subtle performance, and you find yourself wishing his plight would be the focus of the series.
Because the premiere has to spend time introducing us to each character, and because Ramos and Bruce bring such strong characterization to their roles, the other stories seem slight by comparison. Matt (Matt Long) needs money to move him and his pregnant girlfriend out of his hectoring mom’s house. Matt’s brother Nicky (Stephen Louis Grush) is an ex-con with a big debt hanging over his head. Samira (Summer Bishil) chafes under her strict parents and wants to attend Julliard. Leanne (Anastasia Phillips) is a single mom with a secret. Their boss, Bob (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), wants to buy the station before its parent company is sold.
And because those disparate stories are little more than sketches, it’s tough to buy into caring about the group as a whole. (The premiere also features a distracting flash-forward/in medias res opening scene — can we kill this trope, please?)
“Lucky 7” is also debuting without much marketing push from ABC, which won’t help its cause either. It’s hardly the worst show of the fall, but it never really lands.