Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Take Me To The Pilots '15: NBC's 'Blindspot'

[You know the drill, and I will continue to mention it in 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 may 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: "Blindspot" (NBC)
The Pitch: "Jane Bourne" "Prison Break without the Prison" "Amnesia Chuck"
Quick Response: This is either an insult or praise: I'm not sure I've ever seen a pilot as uninterested in character, at least on a traditional expositional level, as "Blindspot." This could be intentional because the writers want to lead with plot and mystery and not muddy the waters? It may be intentional because the main character has no memories/past/characteristics and therefore it was decided to restrict the other characters to job title and "doggedly determined" for the pilot. So for Sullivan Stapleton's FBI Agent Kurt Weller, all of the normal shorthand character details that you'd normally expect -- A picture of a dead wife, a reference to Afghanistan, etc -- are absent. I can't even tell you where Weller is from, because while Stapleton does many things well -- he aces "concerned authority" -- American accents are something he does comically poorly and while he *may* be trying a Southern accent, my certainty on that front wavered with every line of dialogue. I'm assuming the characteristic sparsity was intentional because "Blindspot" creator Martin Gero did character well on "LA Complex," though he also did humor well and that's absent here. Gero and director Mark Pellington are mostly invested in several tiers of nicely shot sleight-of-hand in the pilot. You've got the "Let's spend as much time as possible circling Jaimie Alexander's tattoo-covered naked body without, you know, showing her naked body because we're on NBC" sleight-of-hand and then you've got the, "Let's make things go by so quickly, narratively, that you never stop and ponder under what circumstances any of this would make sense either as efficient gameplay for a criminal mastermind or... anything." Because there's no way to apply even an iota of logic to "Blindspot" and expect to be rewarded. It's all, "Wouldn't this be a wacky thing to occur?" and then, "Oh look, Jaimie Alexander naked and Sullivan Stapleton squinting!" A couple times, I got bogged down in thought and pondered the shell game that the creators were playing. I got distracted by the pilot's puzzle-of-the-week, which wasn't especially creative and featured some stunts/confrontations that were more silly and less inspired than an idea this tenuous should have for Week 1. I also got really distracted by the "twist" ending, which seemed to me to violate the show's sense of perspective and its dissemination of information. So rather than leaving me with interest piqued, "Blindspot" left me saying, "Stop cheating!" But I was never bored.
Desire To Watch Again: Stupid accent aside, I like Stapleton. I think Alexander is doing as much as she can, given that you feel uncomfortable for her for every second of the pilot. Rob Brown and Marianne Jean-Baptiste head up a decent ensemble. So I'll watch a few more episodes, but disbelief will be harder to suspend with every second, since the pilot doesn't even offer worthwhile hints on the big "Who would do this?" and "WHY?!?!?" answers.

Take Me To The Pilots '15: FOX's 'Grandfathered'
Take Me To The Pilots '15: CBS' 'Angel From Hell'
Take Me To The Pilots '15: ABC's ' 'Quantico'
Take Me To The Pilots '15: NBC's ' 'The Player'
Take Me To The Pilots '15: FOX's ' 'The Grinder' 
Take Me To The Pilots '15: CBS' 'Supergirl'
All of my 2014 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2013 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
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


  1. Oliver1:27 PM

    I feel this and The Player are NBC trying to duplicate The Blacklist with pulpy action-driven procedurals.

    Of course, trying repeat The Blacklist made much more sense when the pilots were ordered in January before The Blacklist's ratings cratered. And NBC has had a horrible habit of making cynical knock-offs over the past few years to little success (see: everything from Go On to AD to State of Affairs to The Michael J. Fox Show).

    I can see both shows starting well, giving NBC a strong fall, getting TV writers excited they can once again write their "NBC is back!" articles, and then start falling off again. These two shows generally have the smell of an easy-to-launch Revolutionary Flashforward Event crossed with quasi-procedural-with-ratings-trajectory-of-a-bad-serial The Blacklist.

    Does the twist (which, for the record, I think is a bad idea in a pilot unless you're Modern Family) add any sustainability to the silly and seemingly unsustainable premise?

    1. At least The Player and Blindspot are attempting to replicate Blacklist by TRYING to capture the "fun," rather than the "international political intrigue," which was what NBC chased stupidly with "Allegiance" and "Odyssey." So... There's that?

      And the twist just complicates the premise in ways that seem unnecessary to me. That's all I'll say, because it's not some EARTH-SHAKING twist.


  2. Anonymous1:00 AM

    But I WAS bored. Switching channels. Ahhh... That's better.

  3. Dear Mr. Fienberg,

    I'm glad you're doing these reviews again. I think you are usually bang on in your assessment of the shows.