September 21, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Blindspot”


BLINDSPOT:  Monday 10PM on NBC – If Nothing Else Is On…

NBC’s strategy this fall seems to be to play the deja vu card and hope for the best.  Heroes Reborn returns on Thursday as though its ratings hadn’t cratered into oblivion just 5 years ago, The Player feels like basic cable circa 1998, and tonight’s BLINDSPOT slavishly imitates The Blacklist when it’s not trying to recall the Bourne movies.  Blacklist, of course, is the only scripted hit the network has had since the original Heroes (or at least it was until the Scheduling department ran it into the ground last season), so the desire to replicate it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.  A little bit of originality would have come in handy, though.

Where The Blacklist began with Raymond Reddington walking into FBI headquarters to shockingly surrender himself, Blindspot starts with the shocking discovery of Jane Doe (Jaimie Alexander) in Times Square, naked and covered from neck to feet in tattoos, and her being taken into custody by the feds.  Reddington insisted that the only agent he would talk to was Liz Kean; one of Jane Doe’s prominent tattoos features the name of FBI agent Kurt Weller (Sullivan Stapleton).  The procedural plotlines of The Blacklist are meant to lead to a greater serialized whole, and the same is true of Jane’s tattoos.  Jane, like Reddington, is more skilled at violence than you’d expect, and she has the memory loss that’s afflicted Lizzy’s attempt to remember her childhood since The Blacklist started.  (Those last two aspects, of course, are also straight out of the Bourne canon.)

What Blindspot lacks is James Spader or anyone remotely near his level of charisma.  His morally ambiguous, smirky charm has been the linchpin of The Blacklist‘s appeal, and while Alexander is a capable action lead, by definition her Jane Doe has little in the way of personality, and Stapleton doesn’t provide much more even though his character has his memory.  Without a memorable star, Blindspot has only its arresting opening sequence and its procedural stories, and as with The Blacklist, those aren’t particularly compelling.  (The premiere, written by series creator Martin Gero and directed by Mark Pellington, features a standard-issue terrorist threat to New York.)

Gero was the creator of the little-watched but sometimes quirky Canadian soap LA Complex, so he’s got the ability to create distinctive characters, and perhaps as Blindspot continues, there will be room for the leads to breathe.  At the moment, though, the series feels fatigued even as it’s getting started; you look at the number of tattoos on Jane Doe’s body and think of all the routine stories that will have to be racked up before the show goes anywhere.

What Blindspot has going for it is NBC’s best timeslot, with The Voice as its lead-in and the aging NCIS: LA and Castle as competition.  (Of course, the same placement didn’t save State of Affairs or The Night Shift.)  Blindspot should get sampled, and perhaps the current broadcast network television audience will find it satisfying enough for an hour of its time.  The rest of us may prefer amnesia.



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."