Hey you! This isn't a review, it's a PREview. Huge difference. Most notably, the "P." Also, these PREviews are based on early cuts of pilots that might change drastically by the time they officially hit the air, so we can't properly review them. But we CAN give you an idea of what to expect. In this series of early looks at the new shows of fall 2013, there's no contemplating, no deep analysis; just super-duper quick thoughts on what we just watched that we're passing on to you. We'll revisit each previewed show in the fall with the hyper-intellectual breakdowns and fart jokes you're used to from us goons here at TV.com.
STARRING AND CREATED BY: Hey all you Sex, Lies, & Videotape fans (and I guess you Boston Legal fans, too), James Spader is back on television as the lead in The Blacklist. He's joined by co-star Megan Boone, who was in, ummm, Sex and the City 2 and Blue Bloods. The rest of the cast features Harry Lennix (Dollhouse), Diego Klattenhoff (Homeland), Parminder Nagra (E.R., though she's not in the pilot), and Ryan Eggold (90210). The series was written and created by Jon Bokenkamp (The Call, Bad Seed).
THE GIST: A most-wanted criminal walks into FBI headquarters, and he says to the lady, "Hey, I turn myself in!" But there's no punchline here. Said criminal is Red Reddington (Spader), and he wants to help the FBI take down a bunch of criminals and terrorists, but there's one condition: He'll only work with new FBI agent Elizabeth Keen (Boone)... and it's her first day on the job! Reddington has compiled a list of bad guys he wants to hand over to the Feds if they cooperate with him, and that list is called... oh I don't want to spoil it for you.
SNAP JUDGMENT: FBI shows are the new cop shows, and if they're going to stand out, they need to do something different from the rest. The Blacklist borrows from The Silence of the Lambs in that its tough female lead works with a hyper-intelligent son-of-a-bitch, but copying that relationship is about as original as it gets. As in, you've seen pretty much everything else in the series before, and you've seen it plenty. Because of this, The Blacklist will live and die by its leads. Spader is his usual glaring self (a good thing), and Boone is adequate as another female FBI agent on television, but neither one of them sets the screen on fire. I'd expect a case-of-the-week from Red's list, and the usual cat-and-mouse games between him and Keen each week. Despite some good direction from Joe Carnahan in the pilot, there's an unbalanced tone that just doesn't work, as The Blacklist attempts to garner some laughs and then immediately cuts to FBI dudes busting down a door and slamming faces onto tables. As a network TV crime thriller, The Blacklist is fine, but that's not saying much. Nothing about the pilot made me want to watch a second episode.
PILOTITIS DIAGNOSIS: There's some painful exposition early on, and late in the episode there's some almost step-by-step directions on how the series is going to work, but the middle is all "find the guy, kill the guy."
FACES TO LOOK OUT FOR: Boone might turn some heads with her combination of compassion and toughness, but that's going to be more from the exposure that comes with broadcast TV than from bringing anything new to the stereotype. Everyone else is pretty much playing par, with the standard writing more to blame than their performances.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Who the hell schedules a very important lunchtime adoption meeting on their first day working at the FBI?
EXCITEMENT LEVEL: Low. I know NBC is pushing this one hard, but it's the same situation Fox had with The Following: big-name lead (Spader is big-name now, right?) in an FBI thriller. And we know how that one turned out. On the 1-to-10 scale, let's say 4.
PILOT PREVIEW POWER RANKINGS:
(Where we rank the fall season's pilots based on very early impressions)
1. Almost Human - J.J. Abrams and J.H. Wyman's robotic buddy-cop drama
2. Intelligence - Josh Holloway stars as a Cyber Command agent who has Wi-Fi in his brain
3. The Blacklist - James Spader is a master criminal who turns himself in to the FBI on one condition: He only works with the pretty new female agent
4. Dracula - Jonathan Rhys Meyers is the fanged one in this re-imagining of the classic story of an undead guy chasing his old girlfriend
1. Trophy Wife - Malin Akerman marries into a big family and ends up with two ex-wives and three stepchildren in the process
2. The Crazy Ones - Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar are a father-daughter team in the advertising business
3. Enlisted - Geoff Stults goes to army reject camp with his two brothers
4. About a Boy - Jason Katims' TV adaptation of the film adaption of Nick Hornby's novel about a man-boy friendship
AIRED ON 9/22/2016
Season 4 : Episode 1
AIRS ON 9/29/2016
Season 4 : Episode 2