Don’t look for Mohegan Sun’s TV series “Back of House” on Netflix
You may be forgiven if you didn’t know that Mohegan Sun’s own reality television series is now in its second season, with eight new episodes available to stream.
I didn’t know anything about the series until I saw a news release about season two starting. There hasn’t been, it seems to me, a lot of buzz created by season one.
I should say up front I have no expertise to professionally judge a television show, and Mohegan Sun is calling this a “hit,” with more than a half-million viewings off YouTube and Facebook and two Telly Awards, for cinematography and travel branding, to its credit.
I find it deadly dull.
Still, I will admit to a fascination that drove me through all 14 episodes, which range in length from three to a little more than eight minutes. And given that it does provide a glimpse behind the scenes of Mohegan Sun, I would highly recommend it for everyone here in Connecticut’s Casinoland, just as I would suggest, for the sake of regional loyalty, at least one visit a year to Mystic Seaport’s Charles W. Morgan whaling ship.
And I did learn some things. I never knew, for instance, that Mohegan Sun has a roaming team of fun makers who randomly choose customers to stand inside a glass money both, allowed to keep all the bills swirling round them that they can grab, while a crowd cheers them on.
I think I would rather swim in a shark tank.
I also learned that when casino execs travel around to appear on radio shows to promote events, they ride in a genuine casino limousine. Nothing says casino schmooze like a stretch black Lincoln with its own bar.
The intro segment that opens each episode is the best part of the whole series, with the camera flying in toward the casino’s glass towers, the Thames River winding its way up the landscape in the background.
The scenes showing set up and breakdown for spectacle events in the arena are a reminder of what a big place it is, hosting tens of thousands of visitors.
The characters in “Back of House,” real Mohegan Sun employees, are surprisingly good in their roles, with big personalities, wide smiles and engaging personalities. They look like they belong in the hospitality business. They seem like people who might be fun to hang out with.
What fails the series, I might suggest, is a lack of plot. The biggest moment of tension I remember was a couple of casino employees worried about the star of “The Bachelorette” stuck in Fairfield County traffic. She eventually made it to the start of her casino event with plenty of time to spare.
Martha Stewart makes a cameo appearance with Snoop Dogg, doing a cooking demonstration which, despite a good line in which Stewart tells Snoop Dogg that she knows all about the frustrating lack of knives in prison, falls surprisingly flat.
Surely the casino could borrow and deploy some of its real stories to add some dramatic tension. How about a segment in which executives fret over how a big Vegas casino company moved East and ran circles around them lobbying the Connecticut legislature?
How about an explainer of the computers that can show exactly how long each customer has been at each slot machine, how much they’ve won or lost or how often they’ve played over the last month? Then maybe you could follow one of those customers home, where TV viewers could learn how little they could afford to gamble the money that was lost.
Going in the back of a house in a big casino might really have the makings for interesting reality television.
But I don’t think an enterprise that trades in creating fantasy is going to be good at presenting the reality of it all.
But what do I know? “Back of House” is an award-winning series.
This is the opinion of David Collins.