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, Temptations 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.
TimTom discuss, repeatedly, that they are looking to capture Old Vegas with the Nuggett. To do this they need a lounge singer. Enter Matt Dusk. Okay, let’s stop here and laugh loudly at that name. Matt Dusk..bwahahahahahaha. The lounge singer name on a bad soap, but this is no bad soap, this is MARK BURNETT! TimTom hop in the car and head out to hear Matt Dusk sing at what looks like a hole-in-the-wall kind of joint on the outskirts of Vegas. I’ve never been there, so I could be wrong. While driving, there is a heated debate over how to get there. The short one (who I am pretty sure is Tim) is horribly offended that the tall one tells him how to get somewhere in Vegas. Tim has lived there ALL HIS LIFE! How can partner forget this? Vegas is coursing through Tim’s veins. Tom just looks annoyed and mildly amused by the whole thing. Tim puffs on his ever-present cigarette and motors on.
Matt Dusk is wrapping up a set when we catch him. He’s a lounge singer, in a good way. He has some rather poufy hair, though, IMO, and he sort of comes across as a prima donna. He acts like he’s surprised to hear TimTom wants him to perform at the Nugget and somehow the details are all magically worked out. Now, why am I watching a reality show about how to run a Casino if I never learn anything about how they run The Casino again?
There are some creative differences that come to light when they get down to the actual nitty gritty. Matt Dusk doesn’t want to sing anything that isn’t Vegas-worthy. He has his standards, you know. This clashes slightly with management. Dusk is very determined that the bar not turn into some cheesy karaoke kind of place where he takes requests, etc. He is basically told that if someone asks him to sing a certain song, open up and sing. You just know that this is going to cause conflict in the future and? It does. On Dusk’s premiere night, he is thrust into a battle with the head of entertainment. From the “Only in Vegas” category of characters, comes Lorraine T. Hunt, the honorable Lieutenant Governor of Nevada and dammit, she wants to sing on stage.
It is just me, or does she look like the love child of Liza Minelli and David Gest? Anyway, apparently she and a friend are hellbent on getting on the stage of the Nugget on Dusk’s opening night and performing. They actually had the balls to ask and naturally, management isn’t going to tell them no. Dusk is horrified. His lounge act is becoming cheesy karaoke on opening night! He refuses! He whines! He is overruled! Lorraine and her buddy get on stage and sing! They aren’t very good! Dusk bitches! Oh, the drama!!!
Dusk and his manager/agent have a meeting the next day and are basically put in their place with no fanfare or niceties. If he thinks that he has one iota of creative control, he’s dumber than his name indicates. My prediction? He won’t be with TimTom for long.
In case you didn’t know, Andre Agassi grew up in Vegas (along with our very own Lisapooh) as did, Tim our Casino-owning protagonist. Turns out, Vegas really is a small town and the two of them have been friends since they were 12. The Nugget is all atwitter at the impending arrival of Andre and his manger. Seems that he is interested in investing in TimTom’s latest venture since he passed on their first one. TimTom is quite aggravated that Andre is late for the meeting. They stand in the lobby waiting for the arrival and mutter, curse and smoke. I’m sure that made all the guests feel welcome. Finally, Andre arrives (sans Steffi and the kids). Much ado is made, autographs are signed, kisses are given. It is as big a celebrity as the Nugget is likely to see all season since most A-listers don’t want to be on camera while they are out enjoying themselves.
Again, we are given only the slightest idea what is going on with the business. In what is obviously a rehearsed exchange, TimTom and Andre are joined in holy partnership. We get no idea what dollar amount they’re talking, we get no idea what controls if any Andre will have, we get no idea how they will whore out Andre to bring in more business. Nothing. We see them gush about being friends and shaking hands. That’s about it.
We meet the Frat Pack. They’re in town for one reason: to get Rob laid. Nothing else matters. They figure that even Rob can get laid in Vegas. This should be an easy objective to attain. How wrong they are. Poor Rob. I would mock and jeer here, but he’s just pitiful. He can barely speak loud enough to be heard. He has some facial hair issues and he’s just not cute. He’s Average Joe material, not Get-Laid-in-Vegas material, but his buddies forge ahead. The confessor of the group, Jason, he’s cute. He could very easily get laid in Vegas…or in Nashville, but I digress.
They send Rob to the spa to get all glammed up while they arrange a party for him. While Rob is having a manicure (cause nothing gets you laid quicker than good nails), Jason and the crew are out in the malls of Vegas handing out invitations to a party in their hotel room. Could we be anymore sleazy? Who in their right mind would show up at this party? I’m assuming that the only reason any of the chicks that they managed to persuade agreed was that there were TV cameras involved.
The pack is just as immature and stupid as any college group that was ever scripted. They are obviously full of themselves to the brim. They break into total hysterics while playing with a pair of thong underwear…….yeah, this is what I tuned in for. A replay of my college years without the booze. By the time they leave the mall, I am ready to have them arrested for public idiocy and obnoxiousness. Little do I know that it’s going downhill from there.
Rob is through with his glamtabulous makeover. Bless his heart, he looks no different. He and the Pack are ready to party. Rob is nervous, but tries to put on a good front. He fails utterly. By the time the evening is over, he is still a virgin. That’s right, no sex for Rob. This is despite the glamtabulous spa treatments, the copious amounts of booze poured down both Rob and every female in the room, the lap dance he is forced to give one of the guests and a whipped cream bikini that he licks off of an otherwise naked girl. For one brief moment, we are led to believe that Rob might actually get laid, but as soon as he confesses that he’s a virgin, he’s shot down with the dreaded, “How cute” line and the ho-bag leaves him cold and virginal. So much for the easy lay…if you can get laid in a party in a Vegas hotel room with free booze and gobs of girls, I’m not sure it’s really ever going to be in the cards.
CHUCK THE CHUMP
I save this story for last because there are some things that are just too ookey to be followed. This story is one of them. Our chump is Chuck. He tells us many times over that he is a professional gambler. As I look at him, I’m wondering why on earth he hasn’t put some of that money down on some dental work and plastic surgery, but I’m shallow that way. Plus, as Chuck tell me several times later on, some women really will screw anything with money. He brags about having sex at least 3 times per day, every day, and often with different women. Frankly, I don’t believe a word of it. If you have to shout it out to the world, then perhaps you’re trying too hard. Chuck is butt ugly and obnoxious. He is also wealthy according to himself. He brags effortlessly to the camera that he stopped at one of the local casinos and got $75K out of his account to take to Vegas. He thumbs through the money sort of like one of those pimpy gangsta wannabes on MTV and grins one of the most unflattering grins in the history of television at the camera.
Chuck is a card counter. This practice isn’t illegal, but it is discouraged. He hits the Nugget with the express purpose to “take them down”. How brilliant are you to unveil your plans to a camera crew working in conjunction with the management of the place? No need to answer that. Chuck waltzes through the joint like he owns the place….actually with more oomph than either part of TimTom has shown thus far. He’s definitely someone who garners attention when he enters a room; I’m just not sure it’s all so positive. Chuck likes to talk about himself. During his onscreen time, we hear over and over that he is a “big guy”, “a tall guy”, “6’12”, “a really big guy”, “popular”, “a pro”, “rich” yada, yada, yada. Chuck, it turns out, is his own biggest fan.
MB and company make a big deal over this threat called Chuck. I find it hard to believe that the entire security team plus TimTom would be in such a frenzy over a simpleton like Chuck counting cards, but I’m a craps girl myself, so what do I know? The drama is simply breathtaking…not. All the hoopla is cooled by Chuck’s attraction to a ho-ish looking chick at a blackjack table. Chuck has a pretty well-worn looking blonde tagging along with him, but he is blindided by a brunette who is learning the game with a friend. He makes numerous over-the-top comments to and about the brunette who is wearing a skin tight red jacket that is zipped just far enough to be decent, a pimp hat and some wrap around sunglasses. “I’d like to see that red outfit all over my bedroom floor”, etc., etc. Nevermind that the brunette is with another guy and he has the blonde glued to his side. He is determined to get the brunette up to his room. It’s not really such a tough task. When he suggests they go up, his invitation is received and the two of them go up to his high-roller suite. It is then that we learn what “the most shocking moment in the history of reality television” is. The brunette’s 21 teacher confides to the haggard blonde and the dealer that his friend is a man in drag. Yes, that’s it. That’s the single most shocking thing in the history in of reality television. There’s a tranny in Vegas. Even those of us in the South aren’t shocked. I personally cheered.
Chuck and his “friend” are shown getting very close together as he gives a tour of the suite and points out all the places he envisions them having sex together. They are shown in a very tight embrace up against the bathroom counter and I have to say, I’m wishing I was built like a transvestite for a moment because she looks hot in her ensemble even if it is pretty sleazy. A quick shot of Chuck’s hand on her ass and I have to laugh out loud. Later, we hear him comment on her “sexy, deep voice.” MB leaves everything else to the imagination. Even FOX has it’s standards, evidently.
In what is one of the most pathetic scenes in the history of reality television, Chuck returns to the blackjack table and his blonde floozy is still there! I was shocked. Why on earth would she wait around for him? Then I figured she wanted to see his reaction before she got up and walked out on him. He returns, oblivious to the fact that he just wooed a man, and the rest of the table enjoys breaking the news to him. He is shocked and gives several of his particularly unattractive grins and laughs. At least he was a good sport—it is the only redeeming quality that I can find in Chuck (not that I looked too hard). Then, to my shock and disgust, the blonde stays! She hugs him and I think they kiss. WTF? Has she no shame? Has she no taste? Has she no EYES?
TimTom are basically secondary in this show and that’s it’s biggest flaw in my opinion. They are shown in contrived situations that merely further the Love Boat plots. These two guys have spent $50 million of their own money and for some reason they are trolling the halls to listen for trouble and magically end up outside the Frat Pack’s room. Don’t they have security for this?
The second problem is that whole show just feels sleazy. Between the whipped cream and the simpleton whores falling all over Chuck, I just felt like I needed to take a shower when it it was all over.
I can’t see The Casino being a ratings hit for FOX without some serious changes in editing and a management change. Even MARK BURNETT and HDTV may not be able to save this one.
--I had to go to my parents' house unexpectedly. Have you ever tried to share a computer with your father? He's been busy making me CDs of every picture that he's ever taken. I had to get up at 4 a.m. to get computer time in this place.
**edited to clarify where Chuck's hands were