New TV drama about lottery winners gets mixed reviews

Jun 8, 2006, 8:18 am (26 comments)

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In 'Windfall,' Money Buys Complications Galore
Washintgon Post

"Windfall," NBC's new drama series about a pack of lottery winners, is not likely to be a long-term winning ticket for the struggling network. Fortunately, this soap opera disguised as a prime-time show is an addictive frolic for summertime, when reality TV takes over the airwaves.

"Windfall's" plot does sound like a reality show: Twenty people from differing backgrounds split a $386 million jackpot after winning with a group lottery ticket. Who will be betrayed? What will they do next? Who will blow the money? But instead of being over-the-top reality programming, "Windfall" is pure over-the-top fiction.

We meet most of the characters in a dizzying opening sequence that might scare you off. But stay tuned: The cast is eventually sorted out during the 13-episode series.

Quickly coming to the fore are two middle-class, thirtyish married couples. Jason Gedrick — a show killer whose credits include short-timers "Boomtown," "The Beast" and "Falcone" — stars as one of the husbands, Cameron Walsh, a professor who has the hots for his longtime friend's wife. And far from those y days of "Beverly Hills, 90210," Luke Perry plays Peter Schaefer, often sporting a wounded look as he suspects hanky-panky between his wife and best buddy.

Get used to that look — it's a constant on many of the show's featured faces. You'd think that a $386 million payday would put a bounce in their step.

Exuberance does abound when they win. Most enjoyable is watching an overworked nurse (Jaclyn DeSantis) who soon turns in her jalopy for a sporty Mercedes-Benz and calls her jerk-of-a-boss a very bad word in front of her appreciative co-workers. It's also satisfying when a pizza-delivery gal working two jobs is whisked away from her trailer park in a hired helicopter.

But ecstasy soon turns to edginess. Cameron suddenly smells an opportunity to steal away his best friend's wife (Lana Parrilla), whom he used to date. "Maybe this insanely good luck could change our lives," he tells her. "Money's freedom."

But just when he's contemplating a major life change with his old flame, a former student smells the money and barges into his life, claiming he owes her support for the child she claims he fathered.

The show bounces from one story line to the next so quickly that an untimely bathroom break might just keep you from picking a plot line back up again.

The one plot that promises the most twists and turns, as ridiculous as they might be, involves Sean Mathers (D.J. Cotrona), a handsome flower-shop employee. Turns out he's not thrilled about winning part of the pot — he may or may not be a convicted murderer who doesn't want his name publicized. The enterprising fugitive, however, seduces a female lawyer and persuades her to claim the money so they can run off together.

Ridiculous? Yes, but fun to see what happens next.

Some of the melodrama that threatens to overwhelm the show is thwarted by the youngest winner, Damien (Jon Foster). Although he's a minor, he finds a loophole to claim the money that legally belongs to his controlling dad. He marries a mail-order Russian bride — who was set to marry his dad's friend — thereby becoming an "emancipated minor."

But, wait, we haven't even gotten to the 16-year-old girl whose life goes in a tailspin as her separated parents battle over the cash that was rightly won by the mother.

Let's hope we have all summer to watch "Windfall." It beats enduring those many airings of "Deal or No Deal," a "Law & Order" repeat or yet another "Dateline" special.

'Windfall' falls flat on its face
USA Today

It's an ill Windfall that blows its last gasp in summer.

NBC, of course, would prefer you think of Windfall as a warm-weather treat — an in-need-of-nurturing experiment along the lines of that most successful of summer scripted debuts, Northern Exposure.

Sorry, but this series — developed by Fox and announced by NBC as a midseason replacement as far back as last July — clearly falls within a sadder and more familiar dead category: the summer dump. Clearly, NBC saw what it had and realized it didn't have much.

The show attempts to operate as sort of a mass fantasy fulfillment: What would you do if you won the lottery? According to Windfall, the answer is that you'd either whine a lot about your current marriage, enter into a unwise new marriage, or make an equally unwise hookup with a mysterious stranger with an even more mysterious past.

Alas, the question the show forgot to answer is why we should care. When they complain, we hate them for not appreciating their luck. When they celebrate, we hate them for being lucky.

As with any ensemble drama, the lottery is merely a frame on which are hung the stories and the characters. It just happens to be a particularly rickety frame, which is only fitting, because the characters are correspondingly ill-built.

Windfall centers on four old friends in two troubled marriages. Nina (Boomtown's Lana Parrilla) married Peter (Luke Perry) on the rebound from Cameron (Jason Gedrick, of Boomtown and countless other worthy failures). He dumped Nina for Beth (Sarah Wynter) but has decided that was a mistake.

The two couples manage a lottery pool that expands to include the mysterious Sean (D.J. Cotrona), teenage Damien (Jon Foster) and nurse Maggie (Jaclyn DeSantis), among others. As soon as you've sorted them out, they're rich — and soon after they're rich, they're tiresome.

Seldom has a set of characters worn out their welcome more quickly. It's hard to say which plot strand is more familiar or more unappealing: the marriages threatened by old loves; the rebellious teen who uses his wealth against his father; or the brooding quiet guy with the dark past. It takes roughly 10 minutes to know who they are and what they'll do, and to decide you never want to see them again.

The shame is that there are some fine actors being stranded here — chief among them Gedrick, who just can't seem to find a role that both suits him and the needs of a television audience. He may someday win the TV lottery, but this time, he has once again chosen badly.

Do not make the same mistake.

Washington Post, USA Today

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Atomic Dog's avatarAtomic Dog

Hmmmmm ............ didn't ABC already try this same thing back in the 80's with the show "Lottery"?

Obviously, the networks are running out of ideas.

Maybe they should try a reality show that follows actual lottery winners and how they live day-to-day.  That Whittaker guy would be a hoot.  With him, they would have to air the program in late night TV with all the strip clubs he gets robbed at and all the mayhem that follows him constantly.  HEHEHE!!

Good Luck,


loves2lotto's avatarloves2lotto

I don't think those plot lines are that far fetched. Just look at some of the people we read about on the LP. I mean, when I was 16 I was playing the lottery. Powerball to be exact. We had it all planned out, if I won, then my mom would collect the money.

spy153's avatarspy153

I don't like these critics. I loved Northern Exposure.   And windfall sounds like a show I could get into. I don't know what the critics are looking for in good entertainment but most shows they put down... I love. The ones they give awards to I usually hate.

angelm's avatarangelm

Can't wait to watch it!

bellyache's avatarbellyache

I don't care what the critics say. I'm going to give it a chance and watch it and decide for myself.

Toney725's avatarToney725

I don't care what the critics say. I'm going to give it a chance and watch it and decide for myself.

I Agree!



I totally concurr w/most of the LP crew members.... I too am looking  forward to the program, which aires tonight.  The critics are just that...'critical'....I think we are exposed enough and intelligent enough to decide for ourselves.  After all, so much on Commercial TV and Cable TV is trash anyway....One show is just as good or as bad as another.....I take most shows w/ a grain of salt and  a sense of humor....After all, so many people today, live lives w/more color than the average  Soap Operas....I think the writers are challenged to keep up w/real life.......


chasingadream's avatarchasingadream

I don't care what the critics say. I'm going to give it a chance and watch it and decide for myself.

I Agree! I second that emotion......Im actually a lil excited to see it. I hope they have at least one character that actually benefits positivly from the money. I will mos def be logging back on tonight after it airs to get you guys reaction and add my 2cents...hehehe

fja's avatarfja

I am looking forward to watching the show.  I really dont care how farfetched the critics think it is.  I just want something that is going to keep me entertained for awhile.  Critics are like weather men, they think they know what is going to happen all the time........


my prediction: 

12-09-19-07-01 is coming out somewhere.... but it will pay peanuts!
Looks like numbers for Hot Lotto?

also was that drawing (cringe) computerized??? I didn't see any balls popping!
also what lame drawing would just show "Lotto  Jackpot" and not even what state it is?

 i didn't catch what was the Bonus Ball number?

a 5/5 game would be lucky to go over 1 million.

BUT.. the theme song is really good and I want it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

loves2lotto's avatarloves2lotto

Yeah, they could have done a better job. They just focused more on the different story lines. I kind of reminds me of lost because if you miss an episode then you really are going to be lost.What?

chasingadream's avatarchasingadream

I loved loved loved it......its the best show of its kind that I have ever seen. Usually lotto shows are cheesy but I like this one. There are a few things that could have been "tweek'd" but overall it'll give me something interesting to watch over the summer


they just used a generic have to remember its just a television show and not real so they can't use a state drawing or anything.however i liked it very much and look forward to next week.that russian lady is going to take that teenager for everything he has.he should've listened.father knows best.......

Sandy K's avatarSandy K

lol...ya think so Mike?  Maybe....maybe not..............going to be interesting. 

I liked the show.  I thought the story had some reality to it in that it COULD happen.  Just think if you were wanted by the police, what would you do?  LOL.......I thought the storylines were good.

As far the critics go, I don't like anything they like anyway.  I don't know what they base their opinion on.  Have you ever noticed the 4 stars in the TV guide are all the old 30's thru 60's shows? 

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