Thursday, January 13, 2005

Posted by Johnnymac 1:02 PM
Keeping in line with my usual disdain for everything on television having to do with Poker - or really anthing having to do with poker that was created in the past 2 years - I'm not particularly eager to watch the premiere of "Tilt" on ESPN tonight. I was planning on tivoing the show tonight, anyway, and I guess I still will, but the reviews don't look that great:

Sports Illustrated:

...As far as the big gun of the show, Madsen is asked to out-Madsen himself in the first episode. Don't blame this terrific actor, who does what he can with just a couple of scenes and some silly dialogue ("If I run out of toilet paper at home, I wipe my ass with eight grand. Nine, if I've had chili.").

The hope here is that future episodes show more sides to The Matador. What makes Madsen so great in Quentin Tarantino's films is that his characters aren't merely pure evil. He brings a charismatic complexity to the bad seed role.

The show has some promise. But when it comes to Tilt, I'm going to need a couple of more hands before I'm all-in.


But the big disappointment here is the characters. Anyone who's watched professional poker knows it's filled with nothing but fascinating, superintelligent weirdos. These folks are blessed with the sort of mind that could calculate Wall Street futures, but are cursed with the sort of soul that longs for late-night Las Vegas card rooms. None of this contradiction is captured in Tilt.

Granted, I've only seen the first episode—perhaps in time these boring central-casting toughs will show some hidden depth. But they still won't look the part. Poker players come in every age, shape, and nationality. That's part of why I love televised poker: It's the one place on the dial to see dumpy Asians. Yet Tilt centers on a trio of stylish, slim, attractive young Americans. Haven't these writers watched World Poker Tour? Don't they know that real poker players have awkward facial hair? That they wear satin jackets with casino logos and chew on unlit cigarettes for hours at a time? That they are frequently Vietnamese?

...By the way, Michael Madsen—as always—is excellent in Tilt. As poker legend Don "The Matador" Everest, Madsen hauls out his usual shtick: shiny eyes, gravelly voice, sudden and violent eruptions. He points at someone every time he speaks a line, just to kick up the intimidation factor. If only he were pointing at dumpy Asians in satin jackets, we might have a show here.

(Editors Note: This author obviously is spending too much time at the Friendship Social Club with Chen and Garr)

Pittsburgh Tribune:

The show depicts poker as an intense game that features more trash talk than a football game between the Steelers and Baltimore Ravens. That's part of the problem. There's a lot of talking and not much action.

Madsen does his best to be slimy, but he's been better.

To make things more interesting, "Tilt" focuses on the corruption, which is rampant in the fictional Colorado Casino. This is an aspect that may offend many in the world of championship poker. "Tilt" promises a lot, but delivers very little. The premise would have been better as a two-hour movie, not a new series.

Boston Herald:

Structurally, the writing is interesting. It's a continuing story line that unfolds the histories between the characters slowly while drawing parallels between them. At least we know HBO's ``The Wire'' is a good influence.

But the debut episode spends more time on its perfect-cheekbone leads exchanging trash talk than on anything intriguing or original.

These sexpots look and act as if they could barely count their toes, let alone count cards. Especially lead hunk Eddie Cibrian of ``Third Watch,'' who seems like a Coleman lantern that somehow sprouted a three-day beard. (He plays a character helpfully named Eddie so he won't get confused.)

There's lot more reviews linked at Google. It seems like most legitimate TV reviews are mostly ambivalent or negative on the show and most of the 'DutchBoydAces943' high-school crowd are over the top excited ("Tilt RULZ!!!")... but that's to be expected.

I'll watch it and give my review in the next few days, too. Feel free to leave comments if you have anything to add yourself. Like I said, I'm not particular excited or eager to see this, but the line about the chili is kind of funny.

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