Bookie: Is the Max Show Based on Actual Sports Betting?

A creation of Chuck Lorre, the King of Sitcoms, ‘Bookie’ is a dark comedy series that follows a sports bookie and his misadventures. Danny (Sebastian Maniscalco), is a veteran bookmaking agent who, along with his best friend and retired NFL player, Ray, struggles with his increasingly chaotic line of work. With the possibility of the legalization of sports betting, his career hangs by a thread. Additionally, he has to contend with clients having increasing debts and decreasing mental states.

The Max original show has gained further repute for being the first time Chuck Lorre and Charlie Sheen have worked together since the end of ‘Two and a Half Men’ in 2015, after their public spat. Sheen has a recurring cameo role as himself. With a much grittier topic taken up by the creator compared to his usual material, you may find yourself asking if the show is based on a true story or inspired by events.

Max’s Bookie Explores the Dark World of Sports Betting

‘Bookie’ is not based on a true story; the idea for the show stemmed from writer and producer Nick Bakay, who has expert knowledge of the subject thanks to his background as a commentator for ESPN. Nick has previously worked with Lorre on ‘Mom’ and ‘Young Sheldon.’ Lorre was sold on his idea since he had not explored the criminal world in his work, and the opportunity to do so in the morally grey world of gambling seemed like an ideal setting for a dark comedy. California’s heated debates regarding the policies for sports betting in real life ground the story of ‘Bookie.’ Reportedly, the 2022 ballot carried out for the issue recorded a resounding defeat for large gambling companies pushing online sports in Proposition 27.

Yet, the discussion remains ongoing and relevant, one which the show tackles head-on, displaying the very real problem of gambling addiction and its potential to ruin lives and families. In an interview with Parade, Lorres compared gambling addiction to drug and substance abuse, saying, “This behavior is very much an addiction. So, by jumping into these murky pools of morality, it’s a great way to explore human beings and to get some insight into how people rationalize poor behavior. How did they get there? How did they stay there? What are the repercussions of being in that gray zone?”

Lorre was further entranced by comedian Sebastian Maniscalco’s multifaceted work; having been particularly impressed by his performance as Crazy Joe Gallo in ‘The Irishman,’ he knew Sebastian had the mastery to pull off such a role. Sprinkling additional realism into the narrative set in Los Angeles, Charlie Sheen plays a version of himself as a celebrity client $75,000 in debt to Danny. He was chosen for the role, especially because of his own history with gambling. Lorre recalled Charlie telling him crazy NFL betting stories at the height of ‘Two and a Half Men’ and thought of him for the role immediately.

Speaking of his self-parodying role with the New York Post, Charlie said, “If I can’t make fun of myself I’m missing some of the best humor in my life.” He added, “And I say that proudly, not to diminish anything. And even for the bad s – – t [but] for some of the fun stuff. I like being the internal butt of my own jokes — and I’m drawn to others that exhibit that as well.” Interestingly, Sheen has done many such cameos parodying his own bad-boy persona in the past with the ‘Scary Movie’ series, ‘Due Date,’ ‘Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,’ ‘Friends,’ ‘Pauly Shore Is Dead,’ and ‘Being John Malkovich.’

‘Bookie’ tries to convey how hard it is to be a criminal in a humorous manner. The manner of people you have to contend with has to be the worst and best of it, as Danny himself makes abundantly clear in the line: “Nothing pisses me off more than people.” Speaking of the difficulties faced in their business, Lorre said, “It’s hard work to be a criminal. What I didn’t anticipate when I was writing, is that even in victory, it’s difficult. When they’re sitting on all that cash, what do you do with all that cash in an electronic world? It’s a dilemma.”

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