What most television networks don't understand is that occasionally a lemming will sprout wings and fly.
It happened last year when the Travel Channel started its World Poker Tour Series. It's ending in a little network lemming bloodbath below the summit of Poker Mountain.
To be fair, it was not the producers of the World Poker Tour that developed the beauty of televised poker. The people who began producing the World Series of Poker for Discovery and ESPN deserve that credit. The problem there was a lack of marketability and the one-time a year format. Thanks to The Travel Channel for letting the rest of the world in on the game with the weekly series.
The Travel Channel was our wonderful little mutant lemming. It flies today and it will fly again in season #2. But like many good ideas gone before it, the marketability of televised poker is spawning some unfortunately suicidal productions.
I had seen a couple of bad poker productions leading up to last night, but I let them go. Silly lemmings.
But then I accidentally stumbled on the Celebrity Poker Showdown on Bravo. I'm not sure what bothered me more. It was either that the entire show was based on celebrity coffehousing, or that the poker was so, so bad.
I'll admit, I'm no fan of making celebrities into athletes/gamers/actors/etc or vice versa. People should stay in their damned place and stop pretending they can replicate Brian Bosworth's storied success jumping from football to acting (wait, maybe that didn't really happen).
But, seriously, the lineup last night was pathetic and the poker was pathetic. The only thing I took away from the show was pride in turning it off before it was over.
It's a shame, too, because it incorporated a lot of things I like. I like Kevin Pollack. I like Phil Gordon (if not for poker, for his ability to be a gazillionaire at such an early age and do something good with his life). I like televised poker. Somehow, though, the show came off as forced pablum. And David Schwimmer is about as boring a person as they come. Had he not suffered such a horribly bad beat (a set of rockets beat by a suckout straight), I would've hated him as much as I hate Ross on Friends.
By the time my remote was trying to find a re-run of Law and order: SVU, the poor little celebrity lemming had hit the bottom of the canyon with enough force to rattle my chips off the table.
I will admit, though, FOX Sports Net may have something. Its Showdown at the Sands was an ambitious production, airing just a few hours after the tournament was complete. The closer we get to live poker, the closer I'll be to heaven. The Showdown's biggest problem was I had to watch it with the sound turned off. The unfortunate choice in commentators (my worship of Howard Lederer notwithstanding) made it unbearable to listen to.
Eventually, producers will learn what Michael Keaton's blockbuster Multiplicty taught us so well: If you copy a copy of a copy, eventually you're going to end up with something really ugly.
In this case that ugly mess is lemming guts all over Bravo Canyon.