Stan Lee’s Lucky Man starring James Nesbitt, is the rare, beautifully filmed show that sounds great and feels good. The actors are a professional mix of the famous and the familiar who competently deliver the story. The acting is good, the story and plot are mischievously compelling. The show is good-looking and well filmed, with a fantastic premise and interesting characters.
It’s an older show on Sky One, premiering in 2016 and running three seasons to the end of 2018. The seasons get progressively insane with plot escalations and dramatic cliffhangers, some of which stop mid-sentence or scene, and it’s jarring, but it works. Viewers need to take a reality break with some of the plot setups and scenes set in public. It seems Londoners are incredibly unobservant to what’s happing around them. But that would add realism to the production, and this show is far away from realism. The characters all have jobs, they work in lovely buildings and have relationships with interesting people. There is attention to detail and the series uses unusual shots to show us what is happening.
Nesbitt plays Harry Clayton, a Detective Inspector who finds himself in bed with a feisty younger woman on the night of his ex-wedding anniversary. He’s separated (or divorced, it’s not clear) because his gambling addiction has ruined his life and marriage. He bet his house and lost. His gambling addiction is intense, and he thinks he’s in control, but he’s far from that. Everyone knows it but him.
The one-night stand with Eve, played unevenly by Sienna Guillory, gifts Harry a new gold bangle bracelet he cannot remove that he soon learns can control luck in his favor — but at a cost. Whatever good luck he benefits from, it is balanced out with something terrible happening to someone in his life, or so it seems. Is it possible that luck can be his without the consequences? We need the three seasons to learn the truth.
The source material was a question from Marvel fans to Stan Lee about which superpower he would have if he could pick one. He picked luck, and that was the beginning of the show concept. After spending his life writing Marvel comics, creating compelling characters and incredible superpowers to gift them, he chooses for himself something as esoteric as luck. It’s genius.
Sometimes the episodes lose the plot a bit. They stray into character development or too much side action with normally off-screen characters. The show benefits, but the viewer needs to pay attention and remember what is happening to stay engaged.
The one character that is sadly horrible is Eve, and she should be the central figure in the mystical elements of the show. Her dialog is not well written, and her character is a strange mashup of secret-sect-leader and jewel thief. She spends a lot of time dangerously riding a motorcycle through London for no apparent reason.
For those who enjoy the cinematography side of television, this series is a gem. It is filmed with fantastic long shots, engaging angles, lighting, and a scene blocking style to enhance tension and fear. The color is top quality. There is a season two 360-degree scene in the British Museum that is perfectly paced and done in one long slow take, rotating around and around while Harry and Isabelle verbally parry and riposte about what it means to be lucky.
It is a fun show with good actors set beautifully in London. The city plays its character with vibrance and charm. If the show were set in NYC or LA, the impact would be missing. We see a lot of the city, from the gritty street level to the posh cityscape from above. St. Paul’s and The Needle should get a supporting character credit.
I can’t think of a better mix of crime and characters, a blend of mystical and mayhem, or a better-looking show. The show is available to stream on Sky One or purchase on Amazon Prime and iTunes, so go ahead and roll the dice and give it a watch. You might get lucky and love it.