Heaven is a Playground — Making sense of the abomination that is Sin City Saints

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In middle school, the perfect “mental health day” (see: the official playbook for Jewish mothers) started with a bowl of chickarina soup, saltines on the side and reruns of The White Shadow on ESPN Classic — Ken Howard, with his rutty-faced New York-Irish good looks playing a retired Chicago Bull now coaching high school basketball in South Central Los Angeles. And by coaching, I mean combating the societal ills of 1970s L.A. one wayward teenager at a time.

Homosexuality, teen pregnancy, gangs, drugs and Italian kids nicknamed “Salami,” The White Shadow was like a grittier, less Jewish Welcome Back Kotter (although the team did have bench warmer named Goldstein). Fun fact, the growth of basketball in Turkey during the 80s has been largely attributed to the popularity of the show among the Turkish.

Wanting to enjoy the sense of wonderment that a young Hedo Turkoglu must have felt while throwing back handfuls of Lahmacun during episodes of The White Shadow, I spent most of Wednesday binge watching Yahoo’s newest creation: Sin City Saints. By episode three I felt nauseous; by episode six I prayed for the sweet release of death; by episode eight I experienced what I believe Hunter S. Thompson was describing when talking about “the edge.” (It’s generally a bad sign when Rick Fox turns in the strongest performance among a cast that otherwise features Tom Arnold, the chick who played Chief O’Brien’s wife on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the dude who was “The Wiz” on Seinfeld.)

Sin City Saints follows an expansion basketball team in Las Vegas (presumably in the NBA), with the main hijinks revolving around the tech billionaire owner, who is played by the Wikipedia page-less Andrew Santino. The owner, after running over the team’s star player and in jeopardy of losing his club via action from the league commissioner, enlists the help of a New York City based P.R. guru, played by Malin Akerman. Trying to pull off Tasha Yar hair and failing miserably, Akerman is probably the worst part of the show: Her effort is comparable to Rajon Rondo’s in Dallas, which is problematic because she isn’t that great of an actress to begin with. (Think Kaley Cuoco in The Big Bang Theory bad.)

Subplots include the team recruiting Chinese player Wu, who comes with his stereotypically overbearing, perfectionist Asian mother. Said Asian mother sleeping with the team’s star player (the one who was run over) ala Delonte West. The team signing retired player turned burger magnate Billy King, played by Baron Davis, who, unsurprisingly, is not a good actor. Serbian player Arthak bullying the offensively emasculated Asian assistant general manager, and the owners effort to secure taxpayer funding for a new stadium.

Over the course of season one’s entire 192 minutes I did not laugh, giggle, cackle, guffaw, snigger, chortle, chuckle or tee-haw once. The writing and direction (shame on you Fred Savage from the Wonder Years) were so bad they made Blue Mountain State look like Friday Night Lights. Sin City Saints so desperately wants to follow in the footsteps of an Arrested Development, but in the end comes off like every other bit of garbage on network television, sans the one-line witticisms.

Amazon Prime has Transparent, Netflix has House of Cards, and HBO Go has Game of Thrones; I dig that in its infancy Yahoo Screen has free content, but as long as it’s anchored by fecal matter-like Sin City Saints and a Donald Glover-Chevy Chase-less Community it will continue to rank somewhere below Crackle on the hierarchy of streaming platforms.

At least HBO has the NFL themed Ballers, premiering in June.