Third-episode verdict: Agent X (US: TNT)

The BarrometerA Barrometer rating of 4

In the US: Sundays, 9/8c, TNT

I’m starting to wonder this season if there’s any point in anyone reviewing just the first episodes of new TV shows. It was always a slightly questionable area, given how series can get better or worse over time. That’s why the blog gave birth to first the Carusometer and then the Barrometer to measure TV quality over time. But now shows are simply deciding to become different shows from the second episodes. Review just the first episode? You’re almost reviewing a different show now.

Agent X is a case in point. It’s not a show that’s actually got much better over its first three episodes, but it has become different. The first episode – first two in fact – was clearly an attempt to do an American James Bond, albeit with more than a hint of National Treasure, with Sharon Stone becoming vice president of the United States, only to discover there’s a secret article of the Constitution that gives her responsibility over a secret agent, who covertly sorts out US enemies, foreign and domestic. Unfortunately, said ‘Agent X’ is played by the most average US TV actor imaginable, Jeff Hephner, and the infinitely more interesting Stone gets to do little but turn up to parties and make phone calls. Meanwhile, her helper monkey Gerald McRaney tries to do Simon & Simon again, but without another Simon to help him, making it a lot less funny than it was in the 80s.

James Bond was an odd choice for inspiration, particularly given the show was created and is exec produced by William Blake Herron, who co-wrote The Bourne Identity. Indeed, both Herron and TNT seem to have thought so, too, because episode three switched from Bond to Bourne, right down to the music and the occasional shakey-cam. It also decided to add a whole new sub-plot about a secret conspiracy against the government from within, one involving Stone’s deceased husband. 

The change is probably a good idea. Unfortunately, Herron and co are the wrong people to implement it. While Hephner is better suited to the ‘average Joe’ concept of a Bourne – who in the books, at least, had surgery to make him look more average – he’s still an utterly uninspiring and implausible action lead, up there with Chris Vance’s TV Transporter in the scheme of things, but not even that charismatic or handy in a fight scene. Not that the stunt scenes are any good, being bereft of good direction or innovation. They try to be clever, but ‘man hiding behind a series of doors and then opening them’ isn’t as clever or interesting as the show thinks it is.

Stone’s still relegated to doing nothing much; McRaney just gets to growl and mentor Hephner into being duller; and it’s all still deep bobbins of the highest order. I might hang around for another episode or two to watch Stone and see if the conspiracy arc goes anywhere interesting. But to be honest, it’s going to be a bit of a chore.

Barrometer rating: 4
TMINE prediction: Cancelled by the end of the season or subjected to a major Legends-style reboot for season two


  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.