With much fanfare, FOX has unveiled its latest reality show, The Casino. They were, no doubt, orgasmic at the idea of being able to tout their MARK BURNETT connection. Yes, he’s good, but can’t anyone create a reality show without him? Some answers: The Littlest Groom, My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancé, Paradise Hotel, Temptation Island….okay, no wonder they were thrilled beyond words to have MB. Anything is better than what they’ve had so far.
I was all abuzz with anticipation over The Casino. The premise sounds pretty intriguing: two best friends, who are dot com millionaires, have bought The Golden Nugget in Vegas and are going to try to make even more money. The ads make reference to the guys betting $215 million of their own money to make their dreams come true. We’ll see intrigue, conflict and since it’s in Vegas, skin and booze. Basically The Restaurant without meatballs and with slots.
So, I tuned in eagerly—forced the kids to watch a DVD in another room and gave strict instructions for them to stay.away. I got my giant glass of water and my notebook and sat down, ready to be entertained.
At 8:00 CDT, the show started after another plug for the just-ended North Shore that I wouldn’t watch if they paid me. The screen goes black and then a parental advisory flashes up. That’s a new one on me. I am told that some of the content may not be suitable for children. Little did I know……..
The show’s credits roll. Now, I usually love credits. It builds up the anticipation and I’m a sucker for a theme song. These credits? Not so hot. There are only two main characters to focus on, so the rest of the time is just a travelogue for Las Vegas. I make a note that this will be a good bathroom break in the future. There is nothing remotely attention-grabbing about the opening.
The drama begins: our heroes are Tim and Tom. I cannot remember who is who. One is short, one is tall. One is from Vegas (as we will hear over and over and over), one is not. One is cute, one is not. One is a talker, one is a watcher. Neither, it turns out, can read their confessional scripts with anything close to “the illusion of the first time” which is what I manage to beat into even the thickest skulls of my drama students. Methinks we need more vibrant personalities to carry a show, but maybe they just start off slow.
In the early moments of the show, we learn that MB and FOX have lied to us. TimTom isn’t putting up $215 mil of their own money. They’re only paying out $50 mil. Hyperbole anyone? They have a consortium of investors that ponied up the rest of the dough for this venture. Already, I am disappointed.
After some obligatory background…short guy is from Vegas…..we learn that TimTom has a problem. They have to go before the gaming commission and answer all sorts of questions. They have to answer for all past digressions including possible familial ties to the mob. Will they get their license approved? Oh, the drama……wait, of course they will. How else would you have an entire reality show called The Casino if there is no Casino? Thus, it comes as no surprise that after several hours of questioning, TimTom is approved for a probationary license. They seem a bit surprised that the gaming commission made them add some members to their Board of Directors who have actually had some gaming experience. I’m surprised people gave them any money at all with 5 casino newbies running the show, but this is TV and nothing is out of the question.
At midnight, they toast themselves with a group of people that are never identified. The place is theirs. Wooohooo!
TimTom wants to rejuvenate The Golden Nugget. We learn nothing about who they bought it from or what obstacles they face, only that it is in downtown Las Vegas. For those of us who have never been to Vegas, this means next to nothing. I have heard of The Strip and apparently the Nugget isn’t on it, but they don’t really explain all of this in much detail. Picky little details like this would take away from the bigger plot lines: Andre Agassi and people wanting sex.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that The Casino isn’t going to be so much a documentary as it is Love Boat, Reality Style. Instead of following TimTom around in their day-to-day operations and plans, we are presented with little stories about the guests. These are obviously somewhat staged since MB’s camera crew met them at the airport and hauled them in a limo to TimTom’s playground. I prefer Airport’s approach of finding the schmos in line and then exploiting them and reeling them in, but who am I? Certainly not MARK BURNETT.
Anyway, this week’s episode features four storylines: Chuck the sleazy, professional gambler who wants to “take down” the Nugget and The Frat Pack who wants to get their very socially awkward buddy laid. I think that viewers are supposed to actually care if either of these things happens, but I could be wrong. A new lounge singer is coming to the Nugget, but the road is rocky. Additionally, the short owner’s buddy from childhood ANDRE AGASSI is coming to the Nugget for a visit and to talk about investing in the place.
Now, in 92 words, I have just described the first episode of The Casino. You can make the assumptions on your own because you are all seasoned reality tv-viewers. I could stop now, but what fun would that be?
Before I divulge the plot secrets, I want to talk a little bit about the production of The Casino. MB is famous for his confessionals and the way they draw people in to the players’ minds. It really, really works on Survivor. It does NOT work, at least for me, in The Casino. First of all, the confessionals appear to be scripted. Second, there is some really annoying cheesy Vegas scenery in the background. Third, the confessional characters are just annoying as hell. Fourth, they don’t offer me anything that draws me in.
We all know that MB is good at previews for the next episode. Survivor previews are an art unto themselves. For some reason that I cannot fathom, MB decided to take that concept and put it on steroids in The Casino. Now, instead of waiting until the end of the show, he has decided it would be great to throw the teases at us before every.stinking.commercial.break. Maybe he sensed that people would be switching over to For Love or Money early on or maybe he just needed filler, I don’t know, but this is, IMO, the worst idea he ever had. It ranks up there with the Outkast tribe in the Pearl Islands. The annoying announcer voices over some clips of the upcoming action: “Coming up, the most shocking moment in the history of reality TV!” Then, to make it worse, they don’t even show said shocking moment until they’ve teased it at least one more time. Oh, and the moment? Not so shocking, but we’ll discuss that in a minute.
The lighting is terrible. Just terrible. The whole thing is kind of flat and shadowy. Theediting is shoody—there is no real consistency in the time. Stuff jumps back and forth constantly. There will be no production awards for this show, I promise.
Now for the stories that made up the premiere episode of Casino. We’ll take them one at a time, although the actual series shows them bit by bit mixed in together just like Love Boat did.