Stan Lee’s Lucky Man returns tonight to Sky 1. The channel’s most-watched original drama, it’s a thriller about a cop (Harry Clayton – James Nesbitt), who finds himself the new wearer of a magical bracelet, which seems to give him unlimited luck.
The Marvel heritage of its co-creator gives everything a comic book vibe, as Harry explores the extent of his powers, but the show’s success lies with its similarity to something else entirely: 24. Back in that series’ heyday, Spooks was the closest thing we had to the cinematic action of CTU, but as the 24: Legacy reboot arrives on TV, it’s Lucky Man that emerges as Britain’s answer to Fox’s franchise.
So if you’re a fan of Jack Bauer and his clock-ticking escapades, here are nine reasons why Lucky Man is a slice of good fortune:
A man with unlimited luck, granted to him by a magical bracelet? Straight off the bat, Lucky Man is utterly ridiculous. In the course of the first season, Clayton tries his luck over and over again – both with his life and with our patience. He goes all the way from a speedboat chase in Episode 1 to an underground gambling ring involving rats, being held hostage and tortured (hello to 24 fans) – and, to top it all off, even finds the time for a brief stint behind bars and a quick prison escape. We’re only a coma, amnesia and a surprise pregnancy away from completing the full Jack Bauer Bingo. If you’re looking for realistic drama, keep walking. If you miss Kiefer Sutherland detonating a nuclear bomb and managing to survive by hiding behind a sandcastle, this is the show for you.
It’s got a charismatic star
Stan Lee’s name may be on the cover, but the only superhero Lucky Man recalls is Jack Baeur himself. And in James Nesbitt, we have our very own Kiefer, able to go from cheeky and smily to intense and shouty in the twitch of a facial feature. He’s got troubles, of course, such as a gambling addiction and an ex-wife with a daughter he misses. And he’s got a habit of going rogue, much to the displeasure of his superiors. He’s the kind of guy who you photograph standing next to a yellow police line, just so he can cross it. The fact that he doesn’t seem to age and is very good at running are a bonus. Like 24, the focus on its lead sadly means that a female sidekick gets nowhere near enough to do (hello to Amara Khan as DS Suri Chohan), but every time you think you’re sick of Lucky Man, Nesbitt’s charismatic presence keeps you tuning in.
There’s a mole!
It wouldn’t be a thriller without a mole somewhere among the good guys – and, sure enough, we’re soon shown that we can’t trust everyone on the force. There’s Darren Boyd, having a whale of a time milking it up as Harry’s rival, DI Orwell (first name: Steve), who is so determined to prove Harry’s corrupt he’s willing to bend the rules himself. And there’s Deputy Mayor Frierson, Harry’s former commanding officer, who is played by the ubiquitous Alex Jennings, so you know he’s going to be a little bit slimy.
It makes little sense
As Harry uncovers the inevitable conspiracy that goes up the London power chain, the plot spins and twists as we keep finding more people who are after Harry’s powerful bracelet, or used to own Harry’s powerful bracelet (it can, we discover, only be transferred by the special guardians who watch over it). As a result, we come across all kinds of nonsensical storylines, from students defrauding rich people out of money to a former MI6 officer working for the bad guys, not to mention a whole subplot involving a kidney donor. Oh, and a severed head in a freezer. These are all unravelled and solved by Clayton and Suri, who, like most people in the show, act in increasingly illogical ways – not least of all the villains who repeatedly insist on trying to chop Harry’s wrist in half, never realising that he’s so lucky it will only end in their own injury. And did we mention DS Alistair Winter (a well cast Steven Mackintosh), Harry’s loyal, honest boss who seems to miss every sensible opportunity to fire him for misconduct?
Families in jeopardy!
It’s not just professional lives at risk: the moment we meet Harry’s ex, Anna (Eve Best – rivalling Nesbitt in the charisma stakes), we know she’s destined to be held hostage at some point. The inclusion of a romance with Nikhail (Sendhil Ramamurthy), a prison governor, only makes it more obvious; why else would we spend time getting to know her, if she wasn’t about to put in peril? And, of course, there’s more than enough chance for Harry’s brother, Rich (Stephen Hagan), to end up in trouble too.
While Anna is your typical damsel in distress, there’s also Eve (Sienna Guillory), the mysterious woman who transfers the bracelet to Clayton in the first episode. Repeatedly appearing through the season, usually in motorbike leathers and sometimes introducing another random narrative strand, she might as well be called Mysterious Woman for all the danger, unobtainable knowledge and kick-ass action chops she possesses. Add in Jing Lusi as Lily-Anne Lau, the owner of the casino Harry owes a lot of money too, and you can consider the femme fatale box firmly ticked.
Everything happens very quickly
Like 24, Lucky Man knows that for all this stupidity to stick together, we can’t be given long enough to think about it – and so everything happens very quickly, from people running, or walking while they’re talking, to the editing jumping from one storyline to another within only a couple of lines of dialogue. The only thing missing is a ticking clock and some split-screen.
It looks fantastic
Most shows set in London don’t make the most of their location, but directors David Caffrey, Andy De Emmony and Brain Kelly shoot the heck out of the UK capital like it’s Los Angeles, from the towering skyscrapers to the opening boat chase on the River Thames. It’s glossy, stylish stuff that means that even when you brain is wandering, your eyes are still kept happy. There’s even a hilariously daft set piece set near The O2, so that Harry can get the cable car over the Royal Victoria Docks while the sinister assassin known as “Golding” tries to shoot him. Yes, there’s a shameless shot of the Emirates logo. No, that doesn’t make it any less entertaining.
It’s brainless trash
The cast treat everything with the straightest of faces, from loved ones in danger to all that running around. Even the prison sequences are delivered as if it’s a serious, gritty commentary on the UK justice system. But while Lucky Man would love to have you believe this is a nuanced study of fate, gambling, superstition and the consequences of our actions, it’s nothing of the sort. After an initial bout of karma, consequences are few and far between, and gambling only ever seems to pay off; it’s the kind of high-on-octane, low-on-dramatic-stakes stuff that kept 24 rolling for years. The result is brainless trash that, like its US cousin, is best binge-watched as rapidly as possible, so your mind can enjoy it on the dumbest setting possible. Unlike 24, though, it’s only 10 episodes long, which means that racing through it is far easier – and, with another bracelet owner (Thekla Reuten) on the cards for Season 2, there’s also less time in which things can get really stupid.
Lucky Man Season 2 premieres at 9pm on Friday 24th February on Sky 1. Season 1 is available as a box set on-demand. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it live and on-demand on NOW TV, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription. The contract-free service includes access to a range of Sky channels, from Sky 1 (Supergirl, The Flash) to FOX UK (The Walking Dead, Legion, 24: Legacy) and Sky Atlantic (The Young Pope, Billions). A 14-day free trial is available for new subscribers.