TV

PSA: NBC’s ‘Blindspot’ Is The Procedural That F**ks

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If you’re a person who watches the USA Network regularly — I certainly am — then you’ve most likely seen your fair share of commercials promoting seemingly endless
NCIS marathon blocks. And just to be clear, this is not a knock on seemingly endless blocks of NCIS: I’ve seen the entirety of at least the first eight seasons because of these blocks. To keep the illusion of newness though, USA Network likes to change it up and give the NCIS marathons specific themes. Like last week’s “Fall in Love with NCIS” marathon:

Quite frankly, this commercial suggests that NCIS isn’t just any procedural: It suggests that NCIS is a procedural that f**ks. And I know what you’re thinking, “That’s preposterous because there’s no way NCIS f**ks.” Maybe if you’re only talking about NCIS’ first two seasons with Sasha Alexander — maybe — and even then, that over 13 years ago. Instead, USA Network — and, honestly, most people — should be talking about a current procedural that actually f**ks: NBC’s Blindspot.

If you don’t watch the show, you might at least remember that Blindspot premiered on NBC in the fall of 2015, the same season as that Wesley Snipes one-season series The Player. (Both series’ male leads, Sullivan Stapleton and Philip Winchester, had previously starred on the same season of Cinemax’s Strike Back too.) Because of the Wesley Snipes of it all, it looked like The Player might have been a series that f***ed, but it was not, and it was surprisingly outlived by Blindspot. “Surprisingly” because Blindspot looked like the generic procedural that punchlines were made of, with a generic leading man (sorry, Sullivan Stapleton), and a “high-concept premise” (a phrase that lost all meaning post-Lost) that involved a naked, tattooed, amnesiac Jane Doe (Jaimie Alexander) being found in the middle Times Square. People supposedly tuned out of the show because of all of the above, but if you ask me, it’s because they weren’t ready for the first NBC procedural since 2007 (with the series Life) that f***ed.

But it’s 2018 now, the show just recently began its fourth season, and it’s time to let Blindspot into your heart. Because this show still f**ks.

Now, I should probably define a “procedural that f**ks,” because even though the NCIS was about romance and the very idea of this suggests otherwise, it’s not about sex. Sexiness, maybe, but specifically what makes such a historically simple genre attractive and cutting edge and interesting. We already know it’s not NCIS (or any of its spin-offs, or J.A.G.) or really any procedural your parents/grandparents watch every week. Actually, that’s not exactly true: Your parents/grandparents may start watching this procedural, only to quit when it gets too “weird” for them. The weirdness is typically the sign that this show is actually pretty good, so that’s your time to strike and catch up with every episode.

Despite Blindspot being an NBC series, I’ve got to keep comparing it to CBS procedurals, because: 1) USA Network tried to pretend a CBS procedural f***ed in the first place, and 2) CBS procedurals are of course the standard for procedurals, and anytime they f**k, CBS nips that shi*t in the bud as soon as they figure it out. The Limitless series — which premiered the same season as Blindspot/The Player — f***ed, and, as a result, it only got one season. And only the people who stuck with it knew this, but Person of Interest totally f***ed, to the point where CBS finally just ended it at five seasons with a shortened order and a mandatory number of case-of-the-week episodes. (Serialized storytelling is the television structure that f**ks, by the way).

Now, here’s what specifically makes Blindspot “the procedural that f**ks”:

  • Imagine a version of Alias that wasn’t somewhat marred by the mythology getting too convoluted, was actually allowed to film in international locations and wasn’t jerked around by its network in ways that essentially affected its entire narrative structure. That’s Blindspot. The original promotion for the series would have you believe it’s like a female version of John Doe — and it kind of is, if John Doe had actually been good — and that none of that amnesiac-with-tattoos-and-skills premise would have any satisfactory explanation, but it’s turned out, it does. On a more serious note than the concept of television that f**ks, it’s worth noting that when it comes to the spy subset of procedurals, there tends to be a lack of consideration for the fact that they’re technically a more grounded type of science-fiction — just look at all the tech and scientific advancements in these types of shows. (So when Alias went even more into the aspects of its mythology, it was a struggle to accept, even though the show was always essentially science-fiction.) But in acknowledging that aspect of spy series, it helps to accept a lot about the very premise of Blindspot and the story of Jane Doe as a whole.
  • Now, because Blindspot is a sci-fi series — just accept it — it was also able to have a Groundhog Day-like episode last season, which is the best type of television episode. Weird as that may sound, it actually made sense within the series’ established set of rules without delving into fantasy territory.
  • The show airs on Friday night, and you know what that means: Network & Chill. Unless you’re ABC, I guess. Because of the family-friendly TGIF block. But the rest of the networks know what I mean.
  • Compare the average number of viewers for Blindspot season one (10.8 million) to the average number for season three (5.16). That drop-off right there? Based on no actual evidence, I can say that’s basically all of those aforementioned parent/grandparents that tapped out because of the “weirdness” of the show. While viewership drop-off might not sound like a good sign, in this television economy, you should never trust a network show with great ratings (see: Roseanne). This fool-proof logic also explains why The CW is the best network on television.
  • Speaking of The CW, Blindspot was created by Martin Gero, the man who also created The CW teen drama that also f***ed so much it’s coming back from the dead — despite the fact I’m pretty sure only five people, including myself, watched it — The L.A. Complex. And Gero doesn’t forget his roots, as Blindspot has essentially been home to guest spots for L.A. Complex alums (the same way Mad Men was to Jack & Bobby alums, despite Matthew Weiner having no connection to that series) like Jewel Staite, Joe Dinocol, Paul F. Tompkins, Aaron Abrams, and Ennis Esmer.
  • And speaking of Ennis Esmer, since Blindspot’s first season, he’s played the hacker Rich Dot Com, a character that is literally all about… Well, he’s the one part of this that’s actually about sex.
  • Because of the combination of Gero and The L.A. Complex, Blindspot is also the most Canadian non-Canadian show on television right now: And everyone knows that Canadian television in general f**ks.
  • Last season, the show introduced Bill Nye the Science Guy as the father of one of the series regulars. Not playing a character but as Bill Nye the Science Guy. And yes, characters reacted appropriately to this information. (I mentioned the point about Sullivan Stapleton’s character Weller coming off as generic, but the show also regularly subverts that assumption with things like his fanboying out over this one.) Sure, Beakman’s World was a series that f***ed more than Bill Nye: The Science Guy ever did, but when a TV show even makes you think to make that comparison, you know it f**ks.

There’s a stigma that comes with a procedural television series, and really, people can miss out on some fun, creative television because of that. Again, none of this is to tear down the NCISes of the television world — I may have watched some of that marathon that inspired this piece in the first place — but plenty of shows that do something new or different within the procedural genre either fall right through the cracks in the long run because the people who love their basic procedurals won’t watch them, and the ones who think all procedurals are basic won’t watch them either. (Seriously, I miss you every day, Limitless.) There’s a lot of television to watch and catch up on — some better than Blindspot, some much worse — but if you’re going to make the decision to watch and catch up on Blindspot, it certainly wouldn’t be a bad one. Because, you know, it f**ks.

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