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"Wild Card" Review

By Shawn McKenzie 08/19/2003

Going into Lifetime’s new Saturday night lineup, I knew I had to realize that what I was going to watch was now targeted towards me, a guy.  Fortunately, in the case of “Wild Card,” I liked it, but it’s still not going to appeal to guys.


Zoe Busiek (Joely Fisher) was a Las Vegas blackjack dealer who is forced to quit her job because her sister (whose name is never mentioned for some reason) was killed in a car crash and she needs to return home to Chicago and take care of her sister’s three kids, since her brother-in-law had abandoned them years ago.  Taylor (Vikki Krinsky) is a typical rebellious 16-year-old teenager who clashes with Zoe, probably in the same exact way she did with her mom.  Clifford (Devin Drewitz in the pilot episode, Jamie Johnston after that), or Cliff as they call him, is the 12-year-old middle child who blames himself for his mother’s death.  Hannah (Aislinn Paul) is the 8-year-old youngest child who looks up to Zoe for inspiration.  When the insurance company that handled Zoe’s sister’s case denies the family a financial settlement (they think she committed suicide), she investigates the accident on her own and finds out the truth.  The family is given the money and gives her a job because she impresses them with her investigation skills.


The first episode sets up the premise of the show.  Zoe is seen saying goodbye to her co-workers at the casino (fortunately, we don’t see the accident, which I don’t think would flow with the vibe of this show) and breaking up with her boyfriend (Justin Louis.)  She heads off to Chicago, and when she gets there, she meets Jeannie (Jayne Eastwood), the next-door neighbor who had been watching them until Zoe arrived.  Zoe reunites with the kids, and is immediately deceived by Taylor, who says she has orchestra practice, but is really hanging out with her friends (something Hannah clues her in on.)  The next day, Zoe tries finding a job, but has a little trouble in that area.  Meanwhile, she goes to the insurance company (which is also oddly never named) to claim the money owed to her family, only they won’t pay out because they say that two witnesses and the other driver saw her sister run the red light.  She meets Dan Lennox (Chris Potter), one of the fraud investigators who had worked on her sister’s case.  He said the police reports were good enough for them, so they were denying the claim.  Back at home, Zoe grounds Taylor for deceiving her, and finds out about Hero’s Day at Hannah’s school, a day where the kids dress up like their hero and is attended by parents, which Zoe is not one of.  Zoe makes a deal with Taylor that she can go to prom, but she has to meet her date.  While checking out the totaled car of her sister, Zoe also sees the other car that hit her.  She finds a wedding invitation in it, and pays a visit to the owner of the other car, a woman named Eileen Draper (Kathryn Winslow.)  Zoe finds out while driving him to his basketball game that Cliff blames himself for his mom’s death because he thinks she was speeding to buy him a protractor for school.  She meets Cliff’s basketball coach Marcos Morales (Bronson Picket) at the game, and there is a small attraction between the two.  He asks Zoe to be a chaperone for the prom.  Zoe goes back to the insurance company to tell Sophia “Sophie” Mason (Rae Dawn Chong), another investigator for the company, that she suspects that it was really Eileen’s fault for the accident.  That night, Zoe meets Ted (Alex House), Taylor’s date.  She gets the idea next day to check out the wedding video of the wedding that Eileen attended.  That night at the prom, Zoe sees Ted with another woman and finds out that he was a front for Taylor to go to a frat party.  She drags Taylor out of the party, but soon has to take her to the hospital because someone slipped her a date rape drug.  They pump her stomach and Zoe realizes how much she loves the kids.  Due to Zoe’s legwork, Dan and Sophie reopen the case and find out that Eileen was having an affair with Tony Brooks (Tim Post), one of the people claiming to be a witness.  Tony had been at the wedding with Eileen and had been the one actually driving, so he had her pose as the driver since he had been drinking.  Eileen also falsified the other witness, Ray Ramirez (Conrad Pla), by having him pose as a witness in exchange for forgiving a loan that he owed her.  Dan and Sophie’s boss, Barb “The Intimidator” Miller (Nancy Palk in the pilot episode, Marnie Mephail after that), is impressed with Zoe’s investigation skills, and offers her a job at the insurance company.  Zoe finds out at the end of the episode that Hannah wants to go dressed as Zoe for Hero’s Day.


In the second episode, Zoe trains for her first case with the company.  It is a case about the death of the sister of an activist named Marilyn Lee (Tammy Isbell.)  Marilyn had been videotaping drug dealers doing their deals, and her home was burned down, killing her sister Frances and injuring her.  They think the drug dealers committed the arson.  They interview Marilyn and think it is strange that she is too eager to settle the case.  She tells them that a neighbor boy named Jimmy Wilson (Dalmar Abuzeid) might be able to help her with the inventory.  At the hospital where Marilyn was staying, Zoe meets Sophie’s boyfriend, Peter Callas (Don Franklin), an intern working there.  Sophie finds out that Peter has been accepted at a medical center in Atlanta, so they may have to break up, since she’s not willing to move.  While visiting Jimmy’s house to get the inventory, Jimmy is arrested for arson.  There were too many clues linking him to the crime, but Zoe doesn’t think he did it.  Hannah becomes concerned for a crossing guard (Barbara Barnes-Hopkins) who is living out of her car due to budget cutbacks (later in the episode she organizes a car wash to raise funds for the guard.)  The team discovers that Marilyn was posing as her sister to claim the insurance money, and framed Jimmy to cover up her arson.  Sophie asks Peter to marry her to get him to stay, which he accepts.


In the third episode, Zoe and Dan have to investigate the theft of a Catterfeld painting owned by Ron Westbury (C. David Johnson.)  She meets Lisa Jennings (Janet Kidder), an art dealer who sold him the painting, at Ron’s house.  She finds out that Lisa and Dan were once engaged.  Zoe also finds out later that Lisa was previously named Debbie Fairman, and she and Dan used to steal paintings together as well as be a couple.  This irks her, because she doesn’t know if she can trust him.  Sophie is assigned to a case of a salsa instructor named Carlos Becerra (Juan Chioran) who claims to have injured himself slipping in a grocery store.  She tries to catch him in a lie by having Zoe dance with him, which backfires, because they discover that he is truly injured.  The grocery store was not at fault though, because Sophie finds out that he slipped because of weakened bones due to a vitamin supplement he was taking.  Meanwhile, she and Peter conflict over where to live together.  She wants a fancy place and he wants a low-maintenance place.  Peter surprises her by putting a deposit down on a place.  She later tells him she checked out the place and loved it, but it’s too late, because he got the deposit back.  Back at the office, a couple named William and Holly Von Riet (Aron Tager and Stavroula Logothettis) claim that the painting owned by Ron was originally theirs.  They thought the Nazis had burned it up, but when they saw the story of how it was stolen, they realized it had been stolen from them.  They have no way to prove ownership though, since the Nazis burned up all of their records.  Zoe suspects that Lisa knew it was stolen.  Dan finds out that Ron owes the IRS back taxes and that he may have arraigned the theft for the insurance money.  The person who supposedly stole the money sends Ron a ransom note.  Zoe and Dan supervise the ransom exchange, and Zoe accidentally drops the painting in a lake.  They find out that the painting that they recovered was a fake.  Professor Zivich (John Jarvis), the man who had authenticated the painting, forged it so he could keep the original.  Ron donated the real painting to a Jewish history museum for tax purposes after getting it back from the professor.  Dan realizes that he has no feelings for Lisa anymore, but he does have some for Zoe.  He goes to Zoe’s house to tell her this, but he sees her and Marcos kissing.


Before this becomes an episode guide and not a review, let me give you my opinion of the show.  Fisher is great as the lead character.  I’m used to seeing her in comedies like “Ellen” and the stupid “Baby Bob,” but I somehow knew she could do drama.  There are comedic elements to this show, but it is definitely a drama.  I have seen other reviews compare in to Erin Brockovich (and not in a good way), but I don’t see the comparison.  The character in that movie took on a self-important political stance, but Zoe in this show doesn’t seem to be trying to fight the “big bad corporations.”  It feels more like a detective series.  I always appreciate continuity, so I like the love triangle between Zoe, Dan, and Marcos.  The Sophie/Peter relationship is somewhat boring though.

It is those touchy-feely moments of the show that will keep guys away from “Wild Card,” but I think that Lifetime isn’t really concerned about that.  This show has the right kind of tone for the network, and the investigations are interesting enough to hold my interest.  Women will love it, because it shows an intelligent woman balancing a career that she is good at and a family, something she doesn’t always succeed at.  The one thing that does bug me is that the show is named after her last job as a croupier in Vegas, yet she is only in Vegas for about two minutes before heading off to Chicago.  I suppose it is in reference to her being a wild child tamed by the responsibility of raising kids, but from what I watched, croupier was one of many jobs she held in Vegas.  The title might make more sense if her sister and family had also lived in Vegas, so she only had to take them in (I know…then the whole insurance company thing wouldn’t happen.  I don’t know…)  Anyway…my point is, girls will like it, guys won’t.  So...am I a girl?


Ratings System:


Try to catch this show every week...

If a better show is on, tape this one...

If nothing else is on, maybe this will be good...

If this show is on, change the channel immediately!


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