Brit Watch: I Gambled on Chancer and Lost

This one was rough. As a huge Clive Owen fan, I have long delighted in his onscreen antics, even back in the day when people in the U.S. would look at you cross-eyed asking "Clive who?" You know. The BMW driver guy? Croupier? No? Not registering? Well, when I was sent a stack of DVD goodness from Acorn Media, this was the gem that stuck out in the pile. Something from Clive Owen I've never seen? Oh, well that one gets saved for last! No way that one is going to disappoint.

How wrong I was. Now, it was clear to me from the get-go that this wasn't a particularly terrible series, at least not for its time. But what was also clear was that its time had passed. A product of the early '90s, Chancer is something of a prime-time soap opera about a gambling-addicted common criminal who is surrounded by rich and powerful schemers. Crippled by painful montages, marred by melodramatic iconography and hamstrung by some over-the-top acting, this felt something like the dark and brooding younger brother of Melrose Place or Falcon Crest.

The first episode merely bored me, but I thought it might just take a while to get into the show. But by the second episode, my eyes were rolling while the series laid it on thicker and thicker. What might have been considered edgy trash television in this era just felt worn thin and unengaging now.

The show's one saving grace is in fact Clive Owen, who plays the roguish, gambler/con artist/thief who, after a short stint in prison, tries to reconnect with the woman he loves -- or loves enough to want her back after risking her in a bet. But just as he is about to find her (she's hiding from him, for, um, wagering her in a bet) she dies in a tragic accident, leaving behind -- DUN DUN DUN -- his child who he doesn't know exists.

If this all sounds familiar, it should. This is a soap opera pure and simple -- and even the involvement of Owen can't pull this out of its free fall once it gets going. I've read a few positive things about this online, but they all seem to be from folks who loved the show when it was new and fresh back in 1990. I remember 1990. Vanilla Ice was pretty cool then too. Sadly, neither holds up very well when viewed from this vantage point. If you were a fan of this back in the day, perhaps Chancer will bring back some fond memories of days gone by. But even the most die-hard of Clive Owen fans might want to avoid this one if it comes their way.

C. Robert Cargill - - - Email Me