There were two shows I’d been pining to see all summer. One stars a resurrected S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent. The other stars Alan F%*KING Shore. After watching the premiere of the latter, all I can say is this. Not since Kiefer Sutherland’s 24 has there been a television show that is as pulpy, intense, humorously ridiculous, and just plain fun as NBC’s The Blacklist. A show centered around a character larger than life. Larger than the show he’s on. A character that rights the ship no matter how bonkers or predictable the situation may be. That was Kiefer Sutherland. That was 24. That is now James Spader. That is now The Blacklist. A show that is FILLING that hole in your heart that you don’t like to admit you have. The hole that enjoys the hell out of a show that wants to be fun.
Understand that 24 was a television event when it premiered back in 2001. It was a show primarily based on a gimmick. Twenty-four episodes a season, for one hour, played in real time, all equaling one day. People watched in droves because the concept hadn’t been done before. However, something changed after season 3. Oh, the show kept its format. However, people stopped flocking to watch it for the concept alone. They flocked to it because of the craziness. They flocked to it to see how the show would push the envelop that week. They flocked to it to see what insane thing Jack Bauer would do to someone next. The show became a guilty pleasure that people weren’t that guilty about. The Joe Carnahan directed pilot for The Blacklist is eerily reminiscent of the 24 I used to love. You see all the punches coming, but are still giddy when they land. What surprises there are border on unrealistic, but you still gasp when they happen. And OH BOY is there a character in it that chews up the scenery. So, what’s it about already?
An infamous American traitor, missing for decades, shows up one day at FBI headquarters and turns himself in. He offers the government a list of dangerous terrorists plotting against the country. His only request is that he’ll spill what he knows to a rookie FBI profiler. Not as experimental a concept as 24. However, I think the series producers understand what they want to be. They want to be that 4th season of 24 right out the gate. They understand that what made 24 great was the outrageous situations and the crazy plot twists and of course the larger than life character.
To be honest, this review was essentially a test to see how long I could go without gushing over the sardonic brilliance of James Spader. He is such a great choice for this character. Raymond Reddington is essentially the bizarro Jack Bauer. A man who talks when he should act and acts when he should talk. A man always two steps ahead of every situation. A man, I’m not afraid to say, plays the Hannibal Lecter role better than the man playing the Hannibal Lecter role on fellow NBC show Hannibal. If there was one reason and one reason only to watch The Blacklist, James Spader’s performance is that reason. You can just see the potential for great stuff to come with him. Lets hope writer Jon Bokenkamp can give him as good of material as David E. Kelly did. Because this show will go as far as Spader’s character takes it. Relative newcomer Megan Boone is fine in the role of FBI profiler Elizabeth Keene. What you hope for, chemistry-wise, is if she can hold her own well enough with Spader. The man does have the potential to act you right off the screen. Boone has her moments and will hopefully gain more strength as the show goes on. I’d say something about Henry Lennix, but he is essentially playing the same role he plays in every single thing he’s in. “Bland Man In Charge.” Diego Klattenhoff is a bit of a cold fish as well, but who cares? It’s Spader’s show.
Blacklist is a show that FILLS the void left by shows like 24 and Alias. Shows that are aware of their flaws, but use them in a way that somehow amplifies their fun. It is a void that needed to be filled and that networks have been trying to fill for years now. Don’t believe me? Fox is already trying to bring back 24 one last time after their movie plans for the show went belly up. Until that day, The Blacklist will serve as a more than adequate placeholder. Slap on a fedora…stay away from ballpoint pens…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.