September 24, 2013



NBC has been making breathless claims about THE BLACKLIST being one of the most “buzzed about” dramas debuting this fall. I won’t begrudge network PR flaks their heavy dose of wishful thinking but, if this is the best they’ve got to offer, we’re in for a rocky TV season. It’s a series that feels like someone gathered cutting room floor rejects from ALIAS, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE then said “let’s put on a show!”

Undoubtedly, the pilot will get a decent sampling because it’s got THE VOICE as a lead-in and James Spader stars. Lots of people think he’s a great actor. I’m not one of them. Spader is a self-impressed circus monkey who excels at scenery chewing. He’s a favorite of TV viewers who still think BOSTON LEGAL was brilliant stuff.
James Spader stars in THE BLACKLIST.
In THE BLACKLIST, Spader plays Raymond Reddington, an FBI agent gone wrong. He’s made the jump from hunting fugitives to being one of them. In the silly opening scene, he strolls into FBI headquarters and turns himself in as part of some master plan that only he fully comprehends. If you half expect Dr. Evil to stroll in at any time, you’re not alone.

When Spader isn’t sitting in a chair channeling a dinner theater version of Hannibal Lecter, he’s puffing his chest and issuing some sort of faux-menacing proclamation. His babbling is often punctuated by a cheesy score that sounds as if it was lifted from a bargain bin video game. Spader does a lot of talking in the pilot but doesn’t say anything that made me care a whit about why his character went bad or what the hell he’s got up his sleeve.
James Spader talks a lot but says nothing in THE BLACKLIST.
One of his demands is that he will only speak to FBI Special Agent Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone), a newbie profiler who is about to start her first day of work at the bureau. Why her? Who knows? I guess if enough people tune in and the show doesn’t get yanked, that not-so-burning question will eventually be answered.

Boone is the best thing in the opener and tries her darndest to cobble together a compelling character from the scraps she’s given. I don’t believe, even for a second, that she’s FBI material and when she talks about training at Quantico I choked back a chuckle. The scene where she is asked to profile herself is particularly ham-handed, especially when she declares that her colleagues think she’s a bitch. If you had a dollar for every moment in the pilot where she backs up that claim, you’d have an empty wallet.
Megan Boone stars in THE BLACKLIST.
THE BLACKLIST is one of those series where you are asked to believe two things: almost everyone who works in a Federal intelligence agency is a clueless nincompoop and US military personnel are absolutely useless at providing an armed escort.

There’s a scene early on where Keen walks out of her brownstone and is greeted by a chopper fly-over and a small army of black SUVs teeming with FBI agents (don’t ask). Later on, however, she is transporting a high-value asset in an FBI convoy that is easily ambushed and overtaken by a half dozen bad guys…in broad daylight at a very public location. Never mind that Reddington already telegraphed just such an attack to Keen, the soldiers present are all killed before they can return fire and reinforcements never show up. Umm...ok.

If half-baked action, crappy dialogue and hammy acting are your cup of tea, you’re going to love THE BLACKLIST. Me? Not so much.