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Third-episode verdict: Blindspot (US: NBC; UK: Sky Living)

Posted on October 6, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

BarrometerBlindspot.jpgA Barrometer rating of 3

In the US: Mondays, 10/9c, NBC. Starts September 21st
in the UK: Acquired by Sky Living

As I remarked on Friday, in common with many of this autumn's new US shows, Blindspot is gradually getting better after having a crappy pilot. Whether or not the networks rushed into production with shows that had not been given enough development time, I don't know, but whatever the reason, a number of new shows have slowly been fixing their problems in the subsequent episodes.

Blindspot's pilot had all sorts of problems, not the least a startling lack of originality, despite its 'high concept' idea: a naked, amnesiac woman is found in a bag in Times Square and the tattoos that cover her body turn out to be clues to crimes that are going to be committed. Who is she? Who left her this way? Why tattoos?

Who cares? We've seen better in Prison Break, John Doe, Kyle XY et al.

Certainly, given the lack of chemistry between the two leads (Jaimie Alexander and Sullivan Stapleton), as well as the lack of humour and the general dark moody fightiness of show, by the end of the first episode it would have been hard to come up with a good answer to that last question at least.

However, despite my prediction that the show would drip feed over many episodes the few answers to the other questions, Blindspot has managed in the past two episodes to quickly drop all mannner of hints and even answers that help both to flesh out Alexander and also Stapleton, pulling off the near impossible trick of creating a shared background for the two characters that's not romantic (yet) but which nevertheless gives them a bond.

Hopefully, the show will then lighten up a bit, since Sullivan's guilty, growly, haunted FBI agent isn't really an enjoyable presence and Alexander is naturally a traumatised blank slate. A few smiles wouldn't go amiss.

Now the show's biggest problems are its plots and action scenes. For a high concept show, it has a certain mundanity, with special forces soldiers turned bad and aggrieved suicide bombers being the show's stock in trade. Where are the Carlos the Jackal and the Treadstone of this Bourne Identity

Even if they did show up, the programme needs some improvements in direction. Again, dark and moody can set an atmosphere, but if you can't see what's going on, what's the point? There's no tension, no excitement, in blurs and shadows.

To be honest, on this score, Blindspot could learn a few things from NBC's other new action show starring a former Strike Back lead, The Player, despite the latter getting worse ratings than this. But then Blindspot does have Jaimie Alexander quite naked, quite a lot.

While Blindspot is still largely an average US action TV show, it does at least show some promise now, as well as an ability to adapt and change and a welcome desire not to keep its cards too close to its chest. So while I'm not recommending yet, I will be sticking with it for the forseeable future. 

Baromer rating: 3
TMINE's prediction: Will certainly last a full season, but it ever faces any decent competition in the schedules, it's likely to get cancelled

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Third-episode verdict: Public Morals (US: TNT)

Posted on September 10, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Public Morals

In the US: Tuesdays, 10/9c, TNT

Despite the preponderance in critical theory of the idea of the ‘auteur’ since Cahiers du cinéma first originated it in the 1950s, film and TV are such collaborative media that there are precious few people whose individual vision 'stamps’ projects indelibly, making them uniquely recognisable as the work of those auteurs. David Lynch, Hal Hartley, Akira Kurosawa, Woody Allen, Wes Anderson - you can probably list a few but not as many as you might think at first.

Edward Burns is probably not a name you’d come up with for that list. His might not even be a name you’ve heard of at all. But starting with The Brothers McMullen and working his way through She’s The One and Sidewalks of New York, there can be few more distinctive directors - to the extent that if you hear a film is likely to be about working class Irish-Catholic brothers living in New York, you almost certainly know it’s going to be an Edward Burns film and as a result, that it’s going to be earthy, authentic, comedic and have a good line in dialogue.

But there's a danger with auteurship - it can go too far, crowding out everyone else’s contributions.

Take Public Morals, Burns’ latest foray, this time into the world of TV. Set in the 1960s, it’s effectively Burns’ New York take on LA Confidential, giving us corrupt, working class, largely Irish Catholic, often related cops, trying to enforce public morality laws they don’t believe in and turning them to their financial advantage.

So far, so good. It’s created by Burns. Which is fine. It’s exec produced by Burns. Which is fine. It's directed by Burns. Which is fine. It’s written by Burns. Which is… fine. And it stars… Burns.

Do you want to guess who gets all the good lines?

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Preview: Blindspot 1x1 (US: NBC; UK: Sky Living)

Posted on September 2, 2015 | comments | Bookmark and Share


In the US: Mondays, 10/9c, NBC. Starts September 21st
in the UK: Acquired by Sky Living

It’s often said that there are no such things as original ideas any more. All that can be done is to take a whole bunch of existing ideas and come up with a novel combination of them.

However, some shows are just so derivative, you can’t imagine for a second that they’re actually trying to do something new, rather than simply showing you something so familiar and comfortable, you’ll just watch them out of habit, assuming that you’ve missed an episode or something and the cast all have new haircuts.

And so we have Blindspot, a show so familiar you’re probably picking out chinaware together.

On the face of it, this shouldn’t be the case. It has a whole bunch of qualities that it probably thinks are unique. Except they’re not. Perhaps Blindspot’s blindspot is its massive derivativeness.

After all, how many shows do you know that see people with full body tattoos that give mysterious clues to plot revelations? Apart from Prison Break, of course.

And how many shows do you know where a mysterious stranger wakes up with no memory of who they are or what their name is, but who wants to find out - and they have a very special set of skills that will help them with that? Apart from John Doe, of course.

And how many shows do you know where it’s Jaimie Alexander (Sif from Thor, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD) who’s the mysterious stranger waking up naked? Apart from (seasons 2-3) of Kyle XY, of course?

And how many NBC shows can you name where every week the heroes chase after some mysterious, diabolical criminal with just a few clues handed down ex nihilo to them by some even more mysterious man? Apart from The Blacklist, of course.

In fact, each seemingly unique aspect of Blindspot you’ll have seen already somewhere else, probably done better, and Blindspot adds nothing to them. Alexander’s fine now she doesn’t have to do a cod English accent and she gets to kick ass, speak Chinese and do all kinds of things implausible for someone who has amnesia but that look cool.

Sullivan Stapleton plays her FBI handler, recruited to look after this amazing new asset because she has his name tattooed on her back. He's a lot of fun as the kick ass dick Damien Scott in Strike Back.

He would be fine in this, too, if he actually had a character rather than a plot function. Unfortunately, all he has to do is growl, pull faces and wave guns, since it's pretty hard to have chemistry with someone who has no memories.

But that’s basically it. You already know how it’s going to play out. Each week, they’ll find a new tattoo that’s a clue to a crime they have to stop. Alexander will kick some ass and maybe reveal a new talent. Stapleton will probably shoot someone or do something that will enable Alexander to look good. And there’ll be a gradual drip, drip, drip of clues as to who Alexander really is that will make ultimately make even less sense than the idea that someone would wipe Alexander’s memories then tattoo her with clues to future crimes, rather than simply tell the FBI all he knows.

I like both Alexander and Stapleton, but unfortunately this is just generic NBC action at its very dullest. The action's generic, the story's generic, the ensemble set up is generic. Get your DVDs out and you'll almost certainly find something better.

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