Take Me To The Pilots ’13: NBC’s ‘The Blacklist’

[In case you’ve Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all “These are reviews.” If you’ve read me, you’ve read my reviews and you know this isn’t what they look like.]

Show:The Blacklist (NBC)
Airs:Mondays at 10 p.m.
The Pitch:“Alias” meets “Silence of the Lambs,” with James Spader as Hannibal Lecter.
Quick Response: While Diego Klattenhoff, Harry Lennix and Ryan Eggold mean that “The Blacklist” has a few other actors you know, it’s important to be honest: It’s a two-hander. As James Spader and, to a slightly lesser degree, Megan Boone go, so goes “The Blacklist.” In a perfect cat-and-mouse game, you’ll have investment in both animals, but you can probably get away with only caring about the mouse or the cat. I’m not sure whether James Spader is mouse or cat, but nobody will have any problems watching the “Boston Legal” star work his eerie brand of creepy-zen magic here, playing a master criminal with a government background, exotic tastes and a personal interest in newly minted FBI Agent Liz Keen. This is what Spader does best and even if “The Blacklist” had no other compensating features, I’d probably watch Spader leer enigmatically for at least a few more weeks. Spader’s foil is Megan Boone, who has been in a few things I haven’t seen, but instantly comes across as a well-conceived genetic blending of Minka Kelly and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. I like the toughness that Boone is bringing to the character and the illusion of emotional openness, where you think that Spader will be perpetually cryptic and Boone will be easily readable, only to discover that might not be the case. However, the writing in the pilot really cripples Boone’s character for me. There’s an adoption storyline that screams “Smash” in the worst way possible — Does anything scream “Smash” in the best way possible? — and if you’re a writer attempting to give a character professional credibility, having that character plan to take a long lunch break for adoption counseling on THEIR FIRST DAY AT THE FBI, you’ve done something very wrong. I get that they’re trying to show that the character is trying to prioritize family, but IT’S HER FIRST DAY AT THE FBI and she’s apologizing for not being able to have an all-important adoption meeting. When I actually write this review, it’s going to be 2000 words about that adoption meeting and the soullessness of attempting to simultaneously maternalize a main character and build tension through an endangered child. Except that I won’t have time for that. Sigh. So Boone is fine, but I have major reservations about the character. I think, in fact, that there are many writing sins in the “Blacklist” pilot that Joe Carnahan’s muscular direction is covering up. I’m nervous about how things might unfold with a lesser director in Week 2. Oh and the plot twist/reveal that 100 percent of all viewers guessed from the trailer? It hasn’t been revealed yet, which either means they’re going a different direction or that they think we’re really dumb.
Desire To Watch Again: I’ll stick around for a bit to find out if the answer is “different direction” or “dumb.” James Spader makes things watchable and there’s at least the potential that this could be a weekly crime-fighting romp in the “Alias” mold. In fact, how on Earth did somebody *other* than J.J. Abrams give Megan Boone this big break? She’s 100 percent his flavor of leading lady. Still, based on NBC’s confidence, I wish this was more fully formed than it is.

Take Me To The Pilots ’13: The CW’s ‘The Tomorrow People’ 
Take Me To The Pilots ’13: CBS’ ‘Hostages’ 
Take Me To The Pilots ’13: FOX’s ‘Sleepy Hollow’ 
Take Me To The Pilots ’13: ABC’s ‘Trophy Wife’ 
Take Me To The Pilots ’13: NBC’s ‘The Michael J. Fox Show’ 
All of my 2012 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2011 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2010 Take Me To The Pilots Entries