7 Reasons Why The Blacklist Is One of the Fall TV Season's Pleasant Surprises

In season full of mediocre (or worse) new shows, NBC's The Blacklist has been a nice surprise. When I saw the pilot, I thought it had no business being as rock-solid as it was (and Tim mostly agreed), but I wrote off the show's long-term prospects because I didn't think James Spader was enough to carry the show on a weekly basis, and the ongoing story about Red and Elizabeth seemed pretty obvious. However, after catching up on the series this past weekend and watching Monday's "General Ludd," I realized that I was only partially correct. Spader is mostly up to the challenge as The Blacklist's centerpiece, and the ongoing story is pretty obvious, but the show has done quite a bit of legwork to keep it compelling in the first eight weeks. Although it's likely that the plum post-Voice time period gives The Blacklist most of its ratings juice, I'm no longer shocked that it's the season's biggest hit. Here's why. 



1. A good balance of procedural stories and ongoing mysteries

I've had a few discussions with friends lately about what it means to be a broadcast drama in 2013. One of the takeaways has been that, more often than not, when people think of a broadcast drama, they tend to focus on shows that are almost exclusively procedural, relegating the obviously "great" examples like The Good Wife or Scandal to a small group of outliers that are more often compared to "great" cable shows. And while I love the kind of intense serialized stories those series can tell, shows like The Blacklist prove that the procedural-serial mix can thrive as well. While the show is generally driven by its weekly open-and-shut "cases," it does a nice job of dropping in on the more important mysteries and character stuff as well.



2. A strong combination of cases and criminals...

The show's titular list of bad guys gives The Blacklist a strong procedural foundation to work with on a weekly basis, and although that kind of approach is always going to result in some stinkers (like this week's story, despite Justin Kirk's best efforts and best hair-bleaching), there's a level of competent storytelling there that shouldn't be totally discarded. The main characters work for the FBI, but the seemingly never-ending diversity of the criminals who populate the list allows the show to tackle different kinds of cases every week. One week, Elizabeth, Red, and the crew are dealing with master decrypters; the next, they're chasing a family man who turns people into chemical ooze. 



3. ...especially the more recent weirder stuff

Interestingly, the show also seems willing to dabble in slightly odd pseudo-science territory, which gives the cases another tinge of speciality from week to week. "The Stewmaker," "Frederick Barnes," and "The Courier" introduced us to characters who weren't necessarily implausible as far as reality goes, but they certainly verged on the weird. The opening scenes of "Frederick Barnes" and even this week's "General Ludd" could've easily been Fringe teasers. That's kind of cool. 



4. A solid platform for good character actors in guest spots

Finally, The Blacklist has done what every procedural-heavy show should do, especially in its early episodes: Hire good performers to show up, chew some scenery, and be weird as the weekly villain. It's such a simple idea, but I appreciate the way The Blacklist has embraced it thus far. Tom Noonan, House's Robert Sean Leonard, and Prison Break's Robert Knepper were all really strong in their work as the aforementioned "The Stewmaker," "Frederick Barnes," and "The Courier," respectively. These villains-of-the-week are often just big ideas that the actors then have to fill with personality and particular ticks, but in those cases, the character on the page matched the resulting performance quite well. Although the show might be pushing the weekly villains' families too much, that's something that often comes with the procedural framework. All told, the procedural stuff here isn't amazing by any means, but The Blacklist is at least trying to make its baddies interesting, and sometimes it succeeds for an entire hour. 



5. Ongoing mysteries that aren't yet overwhelming the show

The question marks surrounding Elizabeth, with regard to both her real connection to Red and whether or not her husband is a deep-cover operative, have been fairly successfully integrated into the weekly proceedings. Neither concern ever totally disappears, and the show continues to provide little nuggets of pertinent info without them seeming like a lame tease. After the pilot, it seemed SO OBVIOUS that Red was Elizabeth's father, that Tom was a spy, and that those things were probably somehow related. But one thing I've enjoyed about the seven episodes we've seen since is that The Blacklist hasn't really shied away from those initial, very clearly telegraphed endpoints. When "Gina Zanetakos" a few weeks back fully interrogated Tom's allegiances and delved into what he did or did not know about the Keenes' trip to Boston, the show "proved" his innocence, only to almost immediately have Red suggest that the proof was bull. This week's episode gave us the first big info dump about Elizabeth's paternity. We met her cancer-ridden adoptive father, and the show went just about as far as it could go in admitting that Red is Elizabeth's biological father without simply saying HEY, THIS GUY RIGHT HERE IS HER REAL DAD, NOT THIS ABOUT-TO-DIE GUY. 

The Blacklist could've just as easily run immediately away from either of these stories, because it focused on them so clearly in the pilot. Instead, the show seems dedicated to finding a compelling, complicated way to tell them. Thus far, it's been pretty successful. The most likely outcome is that Tom is up to something, and that Red is somehow related to Elizabeth. This week's episode seemed to suggest that at least one of Red's daughters is a murderer or was murdered; perhaps that's what ultimately led to his abandonment of Elizabeth (if that's clearer to you, let's hear your theories in the comments). 

Plus, the scene between Red and Tom outside the hospital also hinted toward some more nefarious dealings on that end of Elizabeth's life, AND the show still needs to deal with the creepy apple-eating dude and the surveillance team watching the Keene house. Though there are a number of balls in the air already, they're falling at the right rate. 

Of course, the danger with these stories is that the show either eventually tries too hard to throw us off the scent, or waits too long to reveal what we knew all along. But those are dangers for later in the season, or even for future seasons. As of now, that's not a major concern for me. The show has earned my trust.



6. Red's not an anti-hero, he's a villain 

I like that Red is an extremely selfish, villainous character. You can call him an anti-hero if you want, but he's also a straight-up murderer, thief, liar, etc. Although there's a version of The Blacklist that lasts for a decade and sees Red softening up over time, the show is currently committed to reminding us at least once a week that Red's a pretty bad dude. The only things he really cares about are enjoying himself and fulfilling his still-vague goals. Those goals might involve his family, but it's not like he's doing anything out of the kindness of his heart. He isn't someone we should really be rooting for, and the show isn't totally asking us to. 

Meanwhile, Red's relationship with Elizabeth is complicated. The scenes between the two of them are mostly strong, and yet I don't really think The Blacklist is asking us to trust Red (or anyone). From my cursory following of the discussion about the show, it seems like some people don't like Elizabeth (or Megan Boone's portrayal of her), but I think she's been solid as a character who's kind of stupid. The show hasn't quite figured out how to illustrate that Elizabeth is talented, yes, but also super green, and completely in-over-her-head with this new role, leading to a number of scenes where there's way more of the latter than the former. Boone is still finding her way, just as the character is. 



7. JAMES MF'ING SPADER

And of course, there's the Spader. He's been pretty great, even when the material hasn't totally there. And when the material has been there, he's been awesome. It's nice to see him having a ball like he did on Boston Legal, especially after working through whatever the heck was going on when he guested on Season 8 of The Office. I like to think that he shaved his head as some sort of post-Office cleansing ritual. As a character, Red could have been successful with a different actor in the role, but he wouldn't have the same level of smug satisfaction and random moments of humanity without Spader. I won't be surprised when Spader gets nominated for Emmys and Golden Globes for his work here, tough competition be damned. 


The Blacklist isn't the Greatest Thing Ever, but it's the kind of show that NBC can try to build around, and the kind of show that the broadcast networks do pretty well. While it doesn't yet compare to the other good new drama of the season—Fox's Sleepy Hollow—it's not as far off as you might imagine. Shows like this can survive during boring procedural stories or dry periods for the ongoing story if the leads are strong. And while The Blacklist still has some work to do to get there, it's on the right track. If you ditched the show after the pilot or never watched at all, now's the time to jump in. It'll be worth it.


Have you kept up with The Blacklist? What's your opinion of the show thus far?


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Dec 18, 2013
Also "This week's episode seemed to suggest that at least one of Red's daughters is a murderer or was murdered" When was that specifically suggested?
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Dec 18, 2013
So it was written by that Orci guy who also wrote Fringe, it has even been aptly compared to Fringe in some of the reviews, and, well, it DOES seem like a lot like Fringe but without the supernatural elements (so far...).

This would normally pose a problem, but Fringe was relatively short lived for such a cool show, and I guess I miss it enough to not care that this show in some senses feels like a vague copy of it (vaugely copied by the person who helped write Fringe too anyway...). Also James Spader (although Fringe had more than just Walter interesting character wise...).
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Dec 03, 2013
You are right. Liz as a character, I do like. I just don't care much for Megan Boone in the role.
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Nov 29, 2013
I just love "The Blacklist", but the big "BUT" for me is the actress who plays Elizabeth......!!! she is a big disappointment to me...!
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Nov 26, 2013
I think Sleepy Hollow is pretty great but comparing SH and The Blacklist doesnt do justice TB.. TB is much more stronger and much more satisfying and lets be honest its not that crazy
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Nov 26, 2013
James spader is the best... Amazing actor and the show is gripping
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Nov 21, 2013
Well written, articulate review of The Blacklist, one of my favorite programs.

Spader has made his character multi-dimentional and I agree with all except your comment that people would not feel for him. I am hoping he doesn't get killed as it appears to me he really cares about Elizabeth, otherwise why turn himself in. His "list" was just a rouse to help her, and I am coming to believe it has something to with "the husband" ~ great writing style tho. hard to find nowadays !
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Nov 20, 2013
Can't believe I missed this write-up when it came out last week, but better late than never:

I've been watching The Blacklist since its pilot, and every week its been a frustrating watch. If this was some other show I would have abandoned it already, but for some reason I still come back to it - probably the reasons Cory stated above. Its not exactly hate-watching, but perhaps a hope that the potential that it does have will coalesce at some point.

I've been frustrated by the gaping plot holes, the ineptitude of everyone aside from Red (you think the FBI agents on The Following are incompetent? Here, have some more!) and especially the unfulfilled potential of the guest-star baddies, every single one of them. So many great character actors, potentially great back-stories, but so poorly executed - and executed - in the end.

And oh yeah, bring back that FBI ops center from the pilot episode. Have we ever had an assembly of more good-looking FBI agents (hello Annet Mahendru!) than that one?
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Nov 20, 2013
I liked your assessment until the very end when you praised Sleepy Hallow. If you think that piece of garbage is worth watching your other opinions are worthless.
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Nov 19, 2013
Wait, what's this about the "long term" version of Blacklist? Was this based off previous material I'm not aware of? Or did you just mean theoretically long term the show would soften Reds character up?

Anyway, I don't know if anyone else has mentioned it (the articles TV.com writes don't seem to), but the characters on this show outside of James Spader and the well casted villian of the week do kind of suck. The CIA chick is, well, flat and boring. The fair haired guy that partners with her feels heavily like a clichet, especially that episode where he went undercover and made that speech about how he had nothing or something. It felt like nails on a chalk board, or something out of a Team America-esque satire. The director of the FBI, while played by a good actor, is also one note feeling. And then of course there's Lizzy, while obviously the most fleshed out character of the show, is still not terribly interesting to me. Perhaps the best metaphor I can think of is the fact that they cast a woman who's haircut was so important to her, that she wears a wig for her character on the show? Eesh. And while I guess it looks real and I can get over that, I have a lot of trouble buying into her character. Much like the idea that she can't even grow her hair out for the part, it still feels mildly phoned in.

And yes despite that, despite the "none of the good guy characters on this show are remotely appealing", I do watch it, and that is mainly for reason #7.
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Nov 19, 2013
The show is very good and for my money better than Sleepy Hollow and here's why...

While this show does require a certain suspension of disbelief, it is still mainly tethered in the real world and thereby must show some sense of reality (albeit a stretched, not really possible but plausible reality). Sleepy Hollow on the other hand can dream up a crazy way out of any situation it finds itself in since it pulls from the supernatural. As a result, the suspense you may find yourself feeling can have any resolution and thereby not really all that suspensful. It is sort of the same problem I had with Fringe. It held my interest for a while, but once you start doing things like "Oh no we will never know who killed these people! Oh no wait we can use this gizmo to jack into their pupils and see the last thing they saw!" Well wasn't that lucky that this non-existent technology just happened to show up! I don't mind it with shows like Warehouse 13 since they set themselves up to not be taken seriously, but Hollow definitely has a serious tone. Again, I don't dislike the show, it's a solid series, but I think The Blacklist has the edge.
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Nov 19, 2013
After seeing preview ads could not wait for series to begin. Have not been disappointed. James Spader is fabulous as he was in Boston Legal. He carries the show and should be rewarded at emmy time.
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Nov 18, 2013
I don't see that it's a foregone conclusion that Red is Lizzy's father. That's too obvious. And this show is great at aiming the viewer toward the obvious...then jerking him in another direction that says "you're wrong-but thanks for trying".
It's a great show. James Spader is amazing, and I haven't watched him for years.
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Nov 18, 2013
I keep thinking that it's all about her father, and I hope it's not Red. I'm hoping it's an old friend of Red's, someone he's trying to find, and that's why he and everybody else is so interested in her.
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Nov 17, 2013
For some reason, one of my absolute favorite things about this show has become Red's two delightfully strange bodyguards. They just work for me. They both have something interesting about them. They both just seem to hit that golden place between loyal and shifty. And best of all - they both seem to have a story. A story I want to hear and one that I cannot fathom would be boring. Actually they both seem to have two stories, that I am legitimately interested in knowing. I really want their backstory AND I really want to know where their loyalty to Red comes from. Basically, they are the perfect supporting semi-background characters. Way to go, show!
But I absolutely HATE blonde FBI guy. I just want him to disappear. He is so bland and ...ugh. I'm betting that even if he were to mysteriously disappear in a hail of fire, that would be boring too. Every time the show hints that he's her romantic interest, it makes me mad. NO SHOW!! Don't do it! He is an awful, awful character. He is the worst, because he is the dreaded combination of "good guy", but somehow disingenuous, and worst of all: plain boring. Every time he shows up on my screen I don't know whether to fall asleep or punch him in the face, just so he'll go away. Basically, he is the worst. Shame on you, for making us look at him, show!
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Nov 17, 2013
Blacklist is the best new drama series of the season! I'm watching it every week!
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Nov 17, 2013
I have my problems with this show. Megan Boone doesn't have leading lady material. She's definitely not the reason why The Blacklist works. If anything, she's keeping the show down. I also don't like how much something's happened to her. Twice now she's been involved in some type of explosion and received a head injury. I don't like when shows make it seem like they magically recover afterward. Granted, I'm several episodes behind, so I can't really speak to what's going on now. Honestly, James Spader is the only reason why I'm watching...and that's saying something since I didn't like him in Season 8 of The Office...
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Nov 17, 2013
I am at about 70% on this show. I like Red, that he is a bad guy but not a total cliche, he does bad things, someone calls him on it and everyone moves on, as if accepting that the scorpion cannot change its nature, I like the deep backstory and all the double dealing and triple dipping going on it, but most of the rest of the show remains pretty meh to me. Megan Boone is going to become known for the confused-constipated face the way Claire Danes is known for her cry face, because Boone spends half of each episode in that mode. Snooze. Every episode where there is a pointless and futile power struggle between law enforcement and Reddington that just eats screen time is such a waste of 5 minutes I'll never get back; and it happens nearly every episode, WTF?!!! even amoebas learn faster than the FBI apparently. Snooze. Uncle Mike (Diego Klattenhoff), the partner who isn't a partner who will never trust Keene because he hasn't found the magic piece of evidence that proves she's not in cahoots with Reddington who I will call it now will be Lizzie's illicit love interest when her sham marriage falls apart. Snooze.

I cannot help but recall when Person of Interest was in its first season and how bright and shiny, fun and exciting, deep, dark and twisty it was in a way The Blacklist seems to want to be but just isn't. It's not awful or a lost cause, it simply isn't great. But I also recall giving up on The Mentalist despite liking the cast quite a bit because they just dragged plot arcs out until I didn't give a damn anymore. Hopefully The Blacklist finds a balance, keeps the interesting weekly baddies coming and gives us someone other than Reddington to care about to keep us returning each week.
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Nov 17, 2013
Good points. I enjoy The Blacklist but I agree it needs to improve in places. Maybe they should consider expanding the speaking roles of Red's team...I think it's a mistake the writers don't utilize them more. The FBI just doesn't seem all that interesting and I actually prefer the female CIA agent over Lizzie at this point. They need to be careful they don't turn Lizzie into a season 1 Revolution Charlie. It's a real audience turn off when a character is too clueless, emotional and needs constant rescuing.
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Nov 18, 2013
Spot on. Television of our generation seems to have trouble delivering half-decent ingénues that we do not come to dislike rather quickly. Perhaps we still have trouble placing a female in the "hero" role of the archetypal hero's journey?

Great point about Red's staff, and his associates. They must all have great stories, like the soccer mom who prints counterfeit currency in her suburban attached garage. Reddington can afford to spend time in the best restaurants and lounges in the world but he's hanging about in a lawn chair amongst drying bills and little league uniforms? There has to be a fun story in there.
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Nov 16, 2013
Cory, I've been ridiculously busy, so I haven't been able to reply.

I watch the show every week and I'm just kind of bored with it (not as bored as I am with Hostages, but I think Hostages is the worst show of the season). Part of this is just how frustrating of a character Lizzie is. I mean, Clarice Starling wasn't even out of the academy yet, and she did much better than Lizzie. ;) The FBI in general is my problem with the show. Cooper barely registers as an authority figure, and while I'm glad they're starting to give some shading to Ressler, they just feel like they'd all be much more at home on The Following.

So when Spader's not on the screen (or Parminder Nagra's Malik from the CIA, easily the show's best law enforcement character), I kind of check out. Apart from them, I'm not entirely sure why I keep watching, until I thought about No. 4 on your list.

The shift to really big ensemble dramas meant that shows stopped writing for guest stars, stopped having to come up with compelling characters who just drop in in one episode and make an impact. Blacklist is sort of a return to form for that, but I think I'm stuck in that the criminals, while they themselves are neat and weird, their machinations tend to be really dull, never seeming ever all that urgent. Which is a horrible thing to say when you have people buried alive or car bombs primed to explode, but I just never care enough!
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Nov 16, 2013
I'm suprised you chose Scandal as an example of a procedural show.

While it has been procedural in its first season, it has become much more serial and mythological in the second and thrid season.

A better example (imho) would be NCIS or even more procedural, CSI (and all its offshoots). CSI doesn't even pretend to have a season-storyarc.

Otherwise I DO agree with you :)
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Nov 16, 2013
Agreed. Scandal was a procedural for about four episodes. It's not really a procedural anymore.
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Nov 16, 2013
Agreed. Scandal was a procedural for about four episodes. It's nothing like a procedural now.
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Nov 16, 2013
Not sure I understand Cory's sentence there. I don't know if he meant that The good wife and Scandal are examples of great procedurals or great broadcast dramas.

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Nov 17, 2013
I think he meant that they are great at being a mix of both. What I really like about Scandal(never watched the Good Wife, though I plan to) is that while it is a good serial drama in itself, its case of the week stories can also be just as interesting. My favorite procedurals( However, Scandal is rarely a procedural nowadays) are those that perfectly mix the character stories and mysteries with interesting case of the week plots, and the Blacklist is doing that pretty well right now, while a procedural such as SHIELD (which I still enjoy) is having some trouble.
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Nov 16, 2013
I have found blacklist to be a very good show since day 1. I chose it over Hostage. My wife however had stopped watching blacklist. We still watch hostage together probably because we know there is an ending to that story.

Beside the interesting villain and good guest star every week, the show also included at least one major great action scene every week which can be as good as any action movie in the cinemas !

95% of the viewers already knew RED was his father, that was not very interesting. However the husband things is more intriguing ! We are so sure he is a black ops spy then the show seems to be successful in convincing us that we are not and now it seems back on.

I was starting to feel the show is a bit repetitive ( I don't really watch procedural shows like C.S.I and N.C.I.S) but last episode sort of confirmation that RED is the father came at the right time. They should not hold too long to tell us about the husband too.

The stories of the main characters have to move for the show to keep engaging its audience.

One of the main reasons I loved the show is very much because of James Spader. However maybe because I am familiar with Asian actors, I would say Chow Yuen Fatt would played RED very well too !
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Nov 16, 2013
ugh, they are such bad cops!! Like the Ludd episode, so they have a public shoot out and see 20 protesters so they give up and lose the guy, and EVERY time they find the bad guy for the first time, it is always just Elizabeth and her partner, but when they are chasing a dead end they have swat and helicopters!!!!! And the husband spy story line is so weak, let's say he isn't a spy, he just forgives her for not believing him and they go on as if she didn't have him dragged away in cuffs?
James Spader is absolutely holding the show together! And the guest stars are great as is most of the cases, so I agree with most all of your points.
but... Elizabeth is the worst FBI agent ever!!! And, does she wear a wig??!
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Nov 17, 2013
lol about the wig!! Her hair does look weird.
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Nov 17, 2013
wait, you're right...it is a wig!! I just found an interview that says she wears a wig on the show because her real hair is short. Personally, I think they should ditch the wig....it looks so fake.
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Nov 19, 2013
Thank you!!!!!!
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Nov 18, 2013
Can you PLEASE send me that link, my husband thinks I'm crazy!!!!
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Nov 16, 2013
Most important thing about this show: AMBIGUITY is the key. Create more confusion, more questioning. Drag it out; keep is wanting more.

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Nov 16, 2013
Most important thing about this show: AMBIGUITY is the key. Create more confusion, more questioning. Drag it out; keep us wanting more

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Nov 16, 2013
The great thing the show has going for it here is the mythology/villain of the week approach that was perfected by the X-Files and later Smallville. I love the idea of a "rogues villian group" that the show could have similar to a comic book charater. Brilliant; if I ran a show I'd take the same approach. You can appeal to both the long term viewer and the short term one. Although, I'd like to see the mythology start to outweigh the villian of the week storylines over time.

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Nov 16, 2013
"I didn't think James Spader was enough to carry the show on a weekly basis"

Seriously? You dare question the great James Spader? He's a god among actors; there should never have been any doubt. He's unbelievably awesome; how he's not in more movies, I'll never know.

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Nov 19, 2013
Speaking of Sex, Crash, Less than Zero, secretary, Sex, Lies and Video Tape, Wall Street, Dream Lover...
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Dec 10, 2013
None of those are recent.
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Nov 16, 2013
7 reasons why The Blacklist is one of the fall tv season's pleasant surprises:

1. James Spader
2. James Spader
3. James Spader
4. James Spader
5. James Spader
6. James Spader
7. James Spader
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Nov 16, 2013
I think Red just collected information on all these criminals for revenge. His wife is nowhere to be seen (flashbacks, where are thou?) and the picture he took from the stewmaker's book was most-likely his other daughter, as others have mentioned before me in the comments. I'm guessing that he had a friend raise his other daughter (Elizabeth) so she'd be safe.
I wonder what triggered him to show up now. Is Elizabeth in danger? Is it because he found out something about Tom? (How creepy was that conversation?!) Is his Blacklist complete? Is it simply good for business to have the FBI sort-of on your side, taking out your competition and enemies?
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Nov 16, 2013
How great it would be if James Spader (such a fine actor) wasn t Red but Red John in The Mentalist.
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Nov 16, 2013
I think I'm going to drop this one. The procedural stuff really bores me. And a lot of what's going on doesn't make much sense. Spader is good, but no actor is good enough to make an ordinary procedural interesting.

I'm curious about one thing though: How did Red get released? It didn't seem possible that he could get any kind of deal. I just remember that the Dollhouse guy was talking to some woman about it, and she said (I'm paraphrasing) that it's more likely that monkeys will fly out of her butt. So how did they get past that?

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Nov 16, 2013
My expectation for the show before I watched it and my thoughts on it now are quite opposite.

I didn't like James Spader before I watched The Blacklist. When he was cast as the main guy, I thought he'd be the biggest reason for me to hate the show... but at the moment, he's really the only thing keeping me interested. He makes for an intriguing and likable bad guy. At the moment, it's the other characters and actors I couldn't care less about... especially Agent Keen/Megan Boone. I don't care at all about her, her personal life, her hubby, and the actress. I'd probably like the show significantly more if the role was portrayed by someone different.
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Nov 16, 2013
I'm really enjoying "The Blacklist," but I have yet to develop anything beyond a polite interest in the characters not named Red, which probably doesn't bode well for the long term.
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Nov 16, 2013
I really wasn't expecting much from this and so far it has been a pleasant surprise. A mix between The Silence of the Lambs and Homeland with a procedural twist. The show definitely works in large part because of Spader, who makes it fun to watch and chews all the scenery. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast just can't keep up. These characters may develop in time, but at the outset, they serve as little more than window dressing. Take for example Megan Boone. Her character falls short in every sense and it doesn't help that she has the charisma of a monkey with cancer. She's so stiff but in a weird way I guess it works for the character?.. And what's the deal with her awful wig?
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Nov 16, 2013
I feel like it might have started off stronger than it currently is but I didn't have high expectations of the show, in fact thought I wouldn't like it, so I've been enjoying it to my pleasant surprise indeed.
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Nov 16, 2013
This show is dire along with ninety five percent of television. Moronic set up totally unrealistic situations that have no basis in the real world. People like predictability, like children who watch the same movie over and over again. If that's what the majority of viewing audience like so be it but don't try and sell this cop procedural as anything other than what it is, crap.

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Nov 27, 2013
Specific criticisms ? Well il keep to the first episode, how about the fact that a trained FBI agent on the first day sleeps it out she's a psychologist working for the fbi not flipping burgers or the fact that they send in helicopters and a dozen agents into a residential area to pick her up, that wouldn't have attracted any attention or the corny joke she tells when most people would be crapping themselves. When her husband is taken into the hospital instead sitting at his bed side she goes home changes into a pair of short shorts and cleans the carpet. All the scene was short of was her pouring cold water down her shirt. One minute the star of the show is in under more security than Hannibal Lecter the next he's out and about living in a five star hotel instead of having electrodes attached to his balls in guantanamo. A man at the end is let run through a park with some sort of chemical weapon. Or the fact that everyone is ten years to young to have those jobs or everyone is wearing tailored suits on government pay. They were the first that spring to mind a month later. As far as non dire, In Treatment, Slings and Arrows, Luther season 1, the Sopranos, Curb your enthusiasm, Veronica Mars season 1, Firefly, Deadwood, House of Cards, The Game of thrones and im sure I could come up with a dozen more with time to think. Thats my taste and I dont expect everyone to like the same thing I just would prefer that there would be a bit less cop procedural and a bit more originality.
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Nov 27, 2013
Jeez. Sounds like you should just go watch the evening news. Here's an idea: you're basically just trash-talking (without a single specific example of what you're saying) in a community of people interested in a show. If you hate it so much - why would you waste even a few seconds of your life ranting about it in a forum like this without any specific criticism (which would be welcomed, by the way)?
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Staff
Nov 16, 2013
I'd really love to know what makes up the five percent of non-dire television.
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Nov 16, 2013
How about The walking dead, Person of interest, The good wife and HOMELAND? Yes, the show that you only had negative things to say about is still far better than this.
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Nov 16, 2013
The first 8 episodes have been fairly well-done and thoroughly entertaining for a freshman show and the second half of the season is looking to be even better. I am sure the show's weaknesses will work out over time.

Some shows need several weeks of setup and require much patience from the audience but this show hit the ground running and has been really easy for the audience to dive into.
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Nov 16, 2013
Naaah..Just James Spader!! all reasons!.They may not be asking me to root for him but I AM. Its like everything so far is just a game to him, he has already played the moves ahead and won..But i get this feeling like its also a set up for him, like there is a big game coming and whatever he is doing now is preparation and having fun before the main event.
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Nov 16, 2013
I <3 RED.... That's all I have to say!
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Nov 16, 2013
The Red-Lizzie's past relationship hints are TOO obvious. Possible red herring from the writer?
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Nov 16, 2013
I'm enjoying it each week, it very much reminds me of Fringe which is good. Keep it coming :)
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Nov 16, 2013
I agree with Draconax, the 7 reasons are James Spader.
Oh, all right, I could accept your 4 reason, the guest stars. Beyond that, I thik only Spader (reason 7) holds. The rest doesn't compensate the weak characters and the irritating Liz.
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Nov 16, 2013
Here's the thing, The Blacklist is fun, James Spader is fun, and it's not trying to take itself seriously or make a big play for Emmy wins. It's consistent without being insulting or stupid. I'm surprised you don't feel it holds up to Sleepy Hollow, I would say they're almost 2 sides of the same coin.

I am a little disappointed that they're being overly obvious between Red and Lizzie, still holding out for a less obvious twist and the telegraphing is merely a "red" herring, but otherwise it holds up.

The only real dark spot is the questionable CIA agent Malik played by Parminder Nagra, who feels somewhat out of place in all the rest of this and doesn't seem to make much sense within the framework.

BTW, The Good Wife is partly a procedural, it's a "solve things" show in its legal cases, but it's not defining itself as such.

This list is pretty decent, and shows why a watchable show can make it big without being a screaming attention-getter or a tour-de-force.

Interesting that you feel Red is not an anti-hero, and that his actions automatically must mean he's a villain. I think they've skirted this as far as they can get away with it, but he still feels like an anti-hero to me, like he's doing bad things for a secretly good reason.

And thanks again to Muderboy for talking me into trying this show, it is the season's sole keeper on my DVR list that doesn't piss me off regularly (I'm talkin' to you, Agents of SHIELD).
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Staff
Nov 16, 2013
Which means Arrow isn't pissing you off any longer! PROGRESS.
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Nov 16, 2013
I didn't mean to suggest that. I was referring to NEW shows from this season. That said, Arrow was so bad last season that this season's missteps feel old hat by comparison, so that's... progress... sorta. "We sucked so bad before that now when we suck you're used to it."
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Nov 16, 2013
I expected to come into this article and see:

1. James Spader
2. James Spader
3. Still James Spader
4. Yup, still Spader
5. James F'ing Spader
6. James Mother F'ing Spader
7. Okay, seriously guys, James-fucking-Spader.

I was disappointed.
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Staff
Nov 16, 2013
that might have been the first draft
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Nov 16, 2013
It's almost impossible to do an original procedural. It's James Spader's willingness to chew scenery and give it his smarmy all that brings back the viewers every week.
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Nov 16, 2013
Obvious that Red is Elizabeth's father from the pilot??? Are you kidding me?? The first I've heard of this, or even thought of this, was reading this right now, here. (Haven't watched the most current episode yet). What the????
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Nov 16, 2013
Yep, obvious since the beginning. In fact, many of us said that because it was so obvious, it probably had to be a red-herring of sorts... but maybe it's not and it really is straight forward.
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Nov 16, 2013
In the pilot, it's stated her father is a criminal, and Red has a daughter he abandoned when he disappeared, he comes to her specifically despite her being completely out of her element on her first day in this office, and he's been tracking her progress in both personal and professional ways. The implication in the pilot is that he's her secret dad.
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Nov 16, 2013
I thought so at first, too. BUT they were actually talking about her adoptive fahter's record in the pilot (which was mentioned by Red and him in the last episode), so I'm still hoping that in some weird unforeseeable twist Red is actually not her biological father. Wouldn't that be mind-blowing?
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Nov 16, 2013
Yeah, that's what I meant, I was only trying to point out the parallels drawn in the pilot, Lizzie has a criminal dad (plus the burn scar on her forearm) and so does Red's as yet unseen daughter. I'm hoping for them to pull the ol' switcheroo and not have Lizzie be Red's daughter, but that last episode really was driving the nails into that hteory's coffin.
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Nov 16, 2013
Weird, I keep typing "theory" after a mistype I made, and it keeps putting "hteory".
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Nov 16, 2013
This comment has been removed.
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Nov 16, 2013
How about Mondays?! At least through fall. Almost Human, Sleepy Hollow and the Blacklist. Wow. Trying to think of another time I have had so much TV joy crammed into one day.
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Nov 16, 2013
I love this show. watch every week!
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Nov 16, 2013
Did Red show up in Lizzie's life around the same time her dad was diagnosed?...
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Nov 16, 2013
I got the impression that he had cancer maybe a couple of years ago and recently fell out of remission.
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Nov 16, 2013
Correct.
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Nov 16, 2013
Just out of curiosity, what distinguishes The Blacklist from 90% of the shows NBC has tried to launch since Chuck, other than having The Voice as a lead-in? It seems to follow the same template as My Own Worst Enemy and Grimm, there's a case of the week with weekly glimpses of the main character's home life and secrets from work that can't be shared with the character's loved ones. I'm glad the show didn't establish a definite number of names on the blacklist, which, if the show has long run, avoids the conceit of names that weren't on the list popping out of nowhere.
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Nov 27, 2013
I'm gonna express a minority opinion here that My Own Worst Enemy was a really intriguing show that was never given a chance. On the other hand, take one of the "m's" out of Grimm and you'll be closer to its nature, a show that sucks the marrow out of characters and the souls out of its viewers. Neither seems to me to be a template for this show, which is righteously twisty in the way that Red seems to constantly flip the script on his pursuers and his (ex-) partners with only one constant point: Lizzie. Look, that character isn't going to develop dramatically for, I'm guessing, at least the rest of this season and maybe longer. And to my way of thinking, this is because she doesn't have to. She isn't a character in the show - she's its very raison d'être, and the real beauty is that we're still not going to be sure why, even when we know for sure (sorry, guys, I don't think they're going to surprise us on that one) he's her father. For whatever reason, and hopefully they'll take a long time to tell us, she is Red's only anchor - and like him or hate him, he absolutely IS this show right now - in a completely ambivalent world. (The only show that's doing that trope better on non-pay TV right now is FX's The Americans, which I want back on TV yesterday.)
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Staff
Nov 16, 2013
I mean if you're going to say that what makes the show similar to others is the procedural stuff, glimpses of a home life, etc., that's not just NBC retread, that's all of broadcast TV.
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Nov 18, 2013
There's something I feel like is similar between shows like The Blacklist and Grimm that I don't see in shows like CSI or Person of Interest, for example. Characters may have families and a home life, but on other networks, that's not something that's alluded to week after week, as well as their having secrets from their significant other.
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Nov 16, 2013
Congratulating the long list of great character actors then just mentioning one of the longest working character actors as - the guy we who was just waiting to die - Bill Sadler - is a tad mean. And we also got some nice work from 'not Amanda Clarke' Margarita Levieva as the mentioned 'Gina Zanetakos' who may or may not have been screwing Tom. Casting director is doing a nice job. Here's hoping they know where they're headed. Fun ride so far
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