Person of Interest

The Blacklist S1 E1-10 (Sky Living) – and others from 2013 US Fall TV

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Apparently The Blacklist has brought NBC its highest ratings for a freshman drama series since the turn of the century, and just ten episodes into its run it’s not only been given a full-season order it’s also been given a very early renewal for a second year as well. I’m surprised by this, not because the show isn’t any good (it’s one of the best of the Class of 2013 so far) but because it’s such early days and the show is still so clearly finding its feet by trying on a succession of different borrowed sets of attire as it seeks to find out what it wants to be when it grows up and becomes a proper TV show.

blacklistThe high-concept premise is that notorious former high-level government agent turned elusive most-wanted fugitive called Raymond “Red” Reddington suddenly walks into the FBI building in Washington DC to calmly turn himself in. He offers to help them capture some of the most evil and dangerous criminal threats in the world – many so successful the FBI doesn’t even know about them – but on one condition: he will work only with rookie profiler Elizabeth Keen. A special task force is green-lit with the sort of alacrity only ever seen in time-starved television pilots desperate to lay out their format for the studio execs, and away we go: only it’s soon clear that not only is Red playing a very different game, he is also ten steps ahead of the plodding FBI staff at every turn to entirely his own unknown ends. Read the rest of this entry »

ReTake: Person of Interest S1 (Channel 5)

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ReTakes are second looks at things that have previously been reviewed on this site, with the intention of updating previous takes on the subject.

When I originally reviewed the big US hit import Person of Interest I was less than glowing about it, but a number of commenters on the blog urged me to stick with it and continue watching, saying that it picked up. And so I did – even though it wasn’t easy, as the UK broadcaster Channel 5 opted to put it on abrupt hiatus after ten episodes in a move than can only suggest that ratings were less than hoped for. Finally they’ve brought it back and we’re one episode away from the end of the first season.

I’m happy to say that those commenters who recommended I stick with it have been entirely justified: it’s certainly a show that picks up momentum and interest as the season progresses. The more we learn about the history of the main characters and especially of the Machine that spits out their person of interest of the week, the better the show gets. Michael Emerson as Finch continues to be for me the star of the show, but the more they add a troupe of supporting characters to the core duo the better the show becomes, and even Jim Caviezal – an unexpressive actor at the best of times here called upon to play impassive, unreadable secret agent Reese – has grown on me as the weeks have gone past.

The show’s ongoing problem, as far as I’m concerned, remains its case of the week. Almost uniformly these have been dull and uninteresting, done at too high a speed to interest us and in any case mostly the type of stories that are, frankly, just not my sort of thing. Worst of all the show can only make them work dramatically by making Finch and Reese consistently eye-rollingly incompetent at working out what the true underlying situation is. Invariably there is an obvious read of the situation that they simply never consider, and every time it turns out to be the ‘surprise twist’. You can do that quite effectively a couple of times in a season, but if you do it every single week then you just end up making your heroes look incredibly stupid and incompetent. And they do.

The exceptions to the rule about the case of the week are where we get stories that are linked into the over-arching series mythology; for example, the penultimate episode of the season related to an NSA intelligence analyst who stumbles upon the secret of the Machine. These are much more satisfying all around – more emotionally and dramatically complex because as they’re part of the bigger picture they don’t have to be shoe-horned into the 25 minutes of running time that’s usually left around continuing story strands and flashbacks. It shows what the series and the cast can do with decent stories and scenarios and it’s at moments such as this that Person of Interest really does take off and fly, at least just a little.

The series continues to be frustrating: so much talent and clearly evident potential, but not yet where it needs to be and not quite firing on all cylinders, but coming tantalisingly close to doing so. Still, on the whole it’s better to have a show that displays promise of greater things rather than an average show that flags through lack of ambition.

Talking of which: originally I reviewed Person of Interest alongside another US import The Glades and said that I preferred the playfulness of the lower-profile show. Unfortunately The Glades soon lost that playfulness and became a fairly generic and ultimately forgettable ‘quirky’ detective show and is now rather anonymous despite a solid cast, which is a shame.

Person of Interest S1 concludes its run on Channel 5 on Sunday April 21 at 10pm. It is already available to purchase on DVD and Blu-Ray.

Person of Interest S1 E1-5/The Glades S1 E1

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Probably the most heralded recent new show from the US is Person of Interest, which started airing on Channel 5 a few weeks ago. With its pedigree of executive producer JJ Abrams and creator Jonathan Nolan (scribe of The Dark Knight), the premise sounded very promising: a supercomputer with access to Bourne-level surveillance technology predicts future crimes akin to Minority Report. It’s been a big hit in the States and I was looking forward to it airing here’ but I confess, it’s left me cold. Mainly that’s because the story of the week is usually fairly dull and uninteresting, and which require the protagonists to be seemingly wilfully blinkered as to the alternative interpretations of the supercomputer’s predictions in order to fit in the inevitable ‘twist.’ It’s all very dynamic and fast-moving, but also repetitive. It does nothing with the Bourne/Minority Report premise. The lead character is John Reese, and while Jim Caviezel is fine in the tall, dark and moody role as he spies intensely on this week’s subject and says his lines with a Batman-style gravelly rumble, I can’t say that I find him an interesting character. That’s despite the Lost-style flashbacks to his past which will doubtless be the series’ arc leading to some currently untapped development in the show. Far more interesting is Michael Emerson as the mysterious, quirky billionaire behind the project, but then Emerson always was one of the best things about the aforementioned Lost.

By contrast to the fanfare surrounding Person of Interest, while I’d heard of the A&E show The Glades I figured that we’d never get to see it in the UK as it sounded too vapid a show to bother brining over. But digital channel Alibi have a habit of picking up the cable channel programmes that the main broadcasters pass by (hence their expanding line-up which includes such shows as Rizzoli and Isles, Body of Proof, Murdoch Mysteries and Republic of Doyle.) In the case of this latest addition to the channel’s line-up, the protagonist is an ex-Chicago cop relocated to the laid-back Everglades who just wants a quiet time so that he can concentrate on improving his golf swing and chatting up the girls. As opposed to the usual obsessive/angst-ridden cops we get in cop shows (c.f. A Touch of Cloth), lead character Jim Longworth seems pretty disinterested in expending the effort to solve the case and is rather haphazard when he does investigate – but of course there’s method in his madness, and he gets his man at the end. The difference with Person of Interest is that the underlying case in the pilot episode, while simple, has enough twists and false leads and some interesting guest characters to make it appealing and engrossing, and which kept the surprise whodunnit reveal from being too obvious until the end. Moreover, when the answer came, you cared about who it was – in direct contrast to Person of Interest where you’re just pleased it’s done with.

Much depends on whether you find The Glades’ central character played by Australian actor Matt Passmore to be charming and appealing, or insufferably smug. I had my own answer when I realised I’d been watching the pilot show with a big smile plastered on my face for the last ten minutes. I simply enjoyed watching it, and hope that it keeps its sense of fun as the series beds in and doesn’t get tempted to get too deep, dark and meaningful. By contrast, with Person of Interest I found the latest episode was stored on my DVR for days before I finally got around to watching it, and while this week’s was one of the better outings (a money laundering gang kidnap a judge’s son for blackmail purposes) it still felt too much like a chore than it should have done.

Life’s too short. I think I’ll take the series that leaves me with a dumb smile on my face rather than one that feels like a duty to stick with.

Person of Interest and The Glades both premier new episodes on Tuesdays at 9pm on Channel 5 and Alibi respectively. Persons of Interest is due out on DVD on January 17 2013.