TV Review: The Lottery, Series Premiere

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Plot: Set in the not-too-distant future, there has not been a newborn child in six years. The infertility epidemic is causing massive civil unrest around the world and the U.S. government is sponsoring labs around the country to help create new life. Dr. Alison Lennon (Marley Shelton) becomes the first scientist to actually make a living embryo — 100 of them to be precise. But, no sooner than she makes the discovery, the government fertility chief Darius Hayes (Martin Donovan) has her fired and the government takes over the lab. Meanwhile, one of the world’s only six-year-old is taken under government care, but his father (Michael Graziadei) will not give up his son without a fight. The Chief of Staff (Athena Karkanis) suggests the President hold a nation-wide lottery to determine which women will carry the embryos.

Photo Credit: Zach Dilgard/Copyright 2014
Photo Credit: Zach Dilgard/Copyright 2014

magine if one of the screenwriters for The Godfather decided to write his own version of the famed script and put it on television. It wouldn’t involve any characters from the original film and it would examine a different side of the story told in The Godfather.

This is the exact scenario (except not about The Godfather) that happens in Lifetime’s new series, The Lottery. If you’re a film buff you’ll think the premise of the series is strikingly familiar to the 2005 Alfonso Cuaron classic, Children of Men. And you’d be absolutely right. Children of Men screenwriter Timothy J. Sexton has taken it upon himself to take the basic crisis of the film (a fertility crisis) and re-write it from a completely different angle and setting it in the United States instead of Great Britain.

While this sounds promising on paper, let me assure this only sounds promising on paper.

The Lottery, after all, is on Lifetime. This isn’t airing on a network that actually produces high quality and high caliber drama. No, this is the home of Devious Maids and Dance Moms.

What’s startling about this series is just poorly written it is. Sexton has a solid resume to his name. Outside of Children of Men, he has done writing on the acclaimed HBO movie Live from Baghdad and the lauded indie film Cesar Chavez. So, to see this series have characters with some of the most wooden and cliched dialogue coupled with a plot that doesn’t bother to explain character’s motives at all, is quite shocking.

One could say that the horrid dialogue and putrid narrative are the main reasons The Lottery flat out sucks. However, a lot of the blame has to fall squarely on the acting and casting. Marley Shelton, who was great in Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror, is surprisingly awkward. Throughout the entire episode it feels like she’s unsure of how to act physically or what emotion her character should be conveying. The end result is a woman whose eyes are constantly bugging out of her skull and carrying an air of awkward bitchiness around her. It also doesn’t help her character that the show never explains the motive for any of her actions. We’re left to assume that her character is committing high treason left and right because she didn’t like the fact the government took over her research? Oh, yes, that’s logical.

Photo Credit: Zach Dilgard/Copyright 2014
Photo Credit: Zach Dilgard/Copyright 2014

The rest of the cast is equally as abysmal. Whomever cast early 30 something actress Athena Karkanis to play the President’s Chief of Staff should never do casting again. Seriously, a woman who barely looks like she graduated college is playing one of the most powerful women in the world? If Karkanis was cast as an up-and-coming D.C. mover and shaker, a lobbyist or something more age appropriate, it would’ve made sense. Also, the choice to play “Elvis,” the featured “last six-year-old” was completely wrong. The child speaks like someone who just learned how to actually talk — has this casting director been around a six-year-old before? They actually know how to form logical sentences.

There’s so many other things wrong with The Lottery, but going into all of them would not change the simple fact that there was not one positive or redeeming factor about this series. The Lottery is just terrible and from the trailer for the rest of the season it only seems to get exponentially worse. The Lottery is not a show you should watch, not even in an ironic “so bad it’s good” kinda way. No, this is bottom of the barrel television right here.

The Lottery airs every Sunday at 10pm on Lifetime.

Rating: 1 out 10

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Review: The Strain (Ann Hale)

Review: The Leftovers, Series Premiere

Review: Extant, Series Premiere (Luke Kalamar)

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Bill Bodkin is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Pop-Break. He can be read weekly on Trailer Tuesday and Singles Party, weekly reviews on Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, Hannibal, Law & Order: SVU and regular contributions throughout the week with reviews and interviews. His goal is to write 500 stories this year. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English and currently works in the world of political polling. He’s the reason there’s so much wrestling on the site and is beyond excited to be a Dad this coming December. Follow him on Twitter: @PopBreakDotCom

Bill Bodkin is the owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beautiful daughter, Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites

3 COMMENTS

  1. You know how I found your article? I found your article because I was desperately looking for the name of the child actor who played Elvis. I agree with you that most of the roles were badly cast. I do think that you are gravely mistaken for saying that the role of Elvis was badly cast too. In fact, I am totally in love with the character of Elvis and that is because the perfect child actor was found to play him. It just breaks your heart to see how vulnerable he was and much he needed his father to be with and to protect him. If I was that kid’s father, I would murder anyone where they stand if they tried to take him away from me. That’s how powerful the kid’s presence was in the show. Ask anybody and they would tell you the same thing about the kid actor who played Elvis. BTW, do you happen to know the name of that kid actor? Thanks.

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