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Grand Island native finds a lucky 'Windfall'

Lana Parrilla plays Nina and Luke Perry is Peter in "Windfall."
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Stand-up comic Louis C.K. spends his time annoying the neighbors in "Lucky Louie."
2 1/2 stars (out of 4)
10 tonight, WGRZ-TV
& 1/2 stars
10 p.m. Sunday, HBO
Lucky Louie
& 1/2 stars
10:30 p.m. Sunday, HBO
After almost a year wait, the premiere of "Windfall" (10 tonight, WGRZ-TV) arrives with a NBC promotional blitz that could help this series about 20 lottery winners beat the long odds against it.

The wait hasn't frustrated the Grand Island native, Laurie McCarthy, who created the series about beautiful people whose lives have dramatically changed. Soon, they'll discover that money can't buy happiness and the price of winning the lottery is losing your anonymity.

"I haven't felt a lack of support at all from NBC," said McCarthy in a telephone interview this week. "They've been really pretty smart about when they decided to put it on."

Besides, there was a creative benefit to finishing all 13 episodes before it airs.

"The great thing is we got to do it in a creative vacuum," said McCarthy. "For better or worse, we got to kind of move ahead, and it got to be the show I wanted it to be."

And what was that? "I wanted it to be naturalistic," said McCarthy. "I wanted it to answer the question, "What's it really like to win the lottery, to have this explosive event in your life and how much does it change your life really? And how does it test the choices that you've made?' It really got to be a show that was really grounded in people's relationships to each other, to commitment, to their jobs, to their careers and their families."

"Windfall" is a light combination of soap, romance, mystery and wish fulfillment, all played to the requisite musical soundtrack. It isn't likely to win any awards, but the only new network drama premiering for two months is decent summer entertainment. It also should get a ratings boost premiering tonight opposite Game 1 of the NBA playoffs, which primarily appeals to male viewers.

The cast is heavy with recognizable faces, most of whom are much younger and more beautiful than the real lottery winners that often get their five-foot checks on TV newscasts. Luke Perry and Jason Gedrick probably are the best known. The other winners are played by Sarah Wynter ("24"), Nina Parilla ("Boomtown"), Jon Foster ("life as we know it") and D.J. Cotrona ("Skin"), who have been in one or two-year TV wonders and are looking to hit the TV lottery.

Cotrona plays a Western New Yorker, Sean Mathers, who seems like a good guy but has a dark criminal past. Why would McCarthy make the one character from her home area a criminal? "He was the one who we were going to talk about his back story the most and I thought it was the way I could work in the most references to Buffalo," said McCarthy.

In the first two episodes, references are made to the Buffalo Bills, Grand Island and a Buffalo district attorney. McCarthy also hired Buffalo native Fred Keller, as a producer-director.

Of course, things can't go swimmingly for the winners, whose marriages, lives and friendships are threatened. Everyone seems to have had a secret, a secret wish or desire that threatens to be revealed. Interestingly, the less fortunate among the winners are the most generous.

To be generous, the acting isn't always exactly up to Emmy standards. The actress playing a Soviet bride who learns English by watching reality shows seems to have escaped from another show. But at least "Windfall" isn't another reality show about someone willing to do anything for a $1 million prize. For that alone, I hope it wins big when the Thursday night numbers (ratings) come in Friday morning.

Speaking of hitting the lottery, Vince Chase (Adrian Grenier) and his buddies in "Entourage" (10 p.m. Sunday, HBO) live the Hollywood dream again as the third season picks up where it left off last season when the James Cameron action flick, "Aquaman," was about to premiere.

The season's first three episodes of this buddy comedy have their share of laughs as Vince uses talk radio to try and convince his foul-mouthed mom to attend the premiere; an old neighborhood buddy arrives after serving prison time to make Vince's buddies a little insecure about their roles; and agent Ari (Jeremy Piven) turns into an overprotective father powerless to protect his daughter from the charms of a 13-year-old actor.

"Nice boys don't have nine cars," Ari tells his wife. He has low expectations for raising his daughter. "As long as I keep her off "E! True Hollywood Story' I've done by job," adds Ari.

James Woods also shows up to make a complete jerk of himself, a star turn that illustrates how hot "Entourage" has become. Success clearly won't ruin Vince, who demonstrates in episode two that Hollywood hasn't made him forget what it is like to be an outsider. It's all good, it's all good.

The same can't be said for the charmless, oversexed HBO sitcom that follows it, "Lucky Louie" (10:30 p.m., HBO). Written and created by veteran stand-up comic Louis C.K., it looks like a typical multicamera network comedy until the married characters open their foul mouths and hop into bed to engage in some badly performed sex.

"Lucky Louie" is about a heavy, balding, blue-collar worker who hasn't had sex with his low maintenance wife, Kim (Pamela Adlon), in four months. She's a nurse, who doesn't understand her body. They have a young daughter who asks "why" so often that her dad eventually blurts out some damning truths.

The neighbors in their apartment building include a black couple, who Louie has an unintentional way of insulting and annoying. There are two surprising laughs about Jessica Simpson's music and the Greatest Generation in the first two episodes. The rest of the time I couldn't help but wonder "why" HBO put this series on the air.