Agent-X

TNT rolled out a new series this past Sunday night. They call it Agent-X, and they’ve slotted it directly against The Good Wife and Homeland in the 9:00 PM slot. Not a good sign for media buyers.

I mean if I had advertising dollars to spend, and I had to considered ratings as the primary justification, then why would I be spending money against the likes of not one but two award-winning and long-running TV series? Right, there’s an answer somewhere, but it is a bit murky to explain.

Agent-X headlines Sharon Stone as the Vice President of the United States, Jeff Hephner from Kelsey Grammer’s Boss, and NBC’s Chicago Fire as John Case – a poor man’s James Bond sans 00 status and much more of a working-man undercover agent, than Bond’s sophisticated Brit.

Stone has just been sworn in as the country’s VP and she’s been given the key to what is called the Vice-Presidential Mansion. Chief Justice Caleb Thomas who swore her in was played James Earl Jones. As VP, we soon learn that Stone has some specialized duties as spelled out in an heretofore unknown section of the US Constitution.

She has special powers to invoke, in short, she may take any and all steps necessary to protect the Constitution (and the country) against any enemies (both foreign and domestic) that would seek to do harm. She has off the books powers and no one, including the President himself may ever be told anything (to ensure plausible deniability, of course).

Running these black ops from the operational end is Gerald McRaney (who was recently brilliant as Raymond Tusk in Season Two of House of Cards) as Malcolm Millar, ostensibly the Chief Steward (Butler) to the VP but in actuality, he’s the Assistant to the Vice President, as well as being the Man Behind the Curtain, or the ‘M’ of Agent X.

John Shea plays President Eckhardt, and Jamey Sheridan plays Stanton – the FBI Director.

TNT gave us both the Pilot (S1 Ep 1) and The Enemy of My Enemy (S2 Ep 2) on opening night. So Stone’s Maccabee is quickly in play with the cloak and dagger stuff. And you thought the Vice President was a mere figure-head.

The meat and potatoes of the Pilot is that FBI Director Stanton’s daughter, a college student at Georgetown, has been kidnapped. The kidnappers are willing to release this daughter only if a certain spy – Olga Petrovka is released – a standard exchange. Only Petrovka is a nasty customer. She’s played by Olga Fonda. Petrovka can easily be labeled as a terrorist herself, and John Case had his hands full in capturing her.

In Episode 2, Enemy of My Enemy, an old foe of John Case, one Malik Ahmad steals a truckload of intermediary-range missiles from a convoy somewhere in Chechnya. This Malik is connected to a Russian mobster called Volkov, who will fronting the sale of these missiles to the highest bidder. So because Olga is a paramour of Volkov, Case and Olga have to team up to take down the missile sale and destroy the missiles.

On paper the two episodes have rather decent though not the least bit new plots. What is new, is the fact that there is a secret Constitution and not one VP or Chief Justice, Or Agent-X, over the nearly 250 years since the Constitution was signed has ever done a revelatory tell all about this. The secret has remained just that – a secret.

Now Stone is not only at the head of the cast list, she’s also an Exec Producer. which may make this a Sharon Stone vanity project. But there’s not a thing that I can mention that will make me watch another episode of this series. Poorly written, poorly directed, and what’s more there is a total lack of thrills or suspense or mystery to this series.

None of the bad guys, despite firing what appears to thousands of rounds of ammo has hit a target. The fight scenes seem as poorly choreographed as anything you’ve ever seen. Hephner is not bad as Case, but he seemed way more charismatic as Ben Zajac in Boss.

Olga Fonda will remind you of Natalie Wood in many respects, and she’s watchable as a femme fatale. McRaney and Sheridan are seasoned veterans and can carry off their roles with minimum effort.

But the show lacks cohesion, smarts, and most of all, the show inexplicably keeps you at arm’s distance from all of the characters. Even James Earl Jones, as Chief Justice Caleb Thomas, in a scene in his home, comes off as a shallow cardboard character. He’s in a robe and slippers, the lights are low, there’s a healthy fire going in the fireplace, and Justice Caleb is laying it all out for Stone’s Vice President.

Yes, we needed the back-story of Agent-X and the secret Constitution – but the scene played flat, at least to me. I watched and listened but was unmoved.

Hephner as John Case with a hint of Bond

Hephner as John Case with a hint of Bond

I think the show will go down the tubes. First it has no chance in hell in its current time slot, so the sponsors will bail as the poor ratings are revealed. Second, most viewers have already bailed. The show has no buzz, no heat, no thrills, and no compelling reason for you to watch it.

I won’t bother with a rating, and my only recommendation is that you stick with Sunday Night Football, The Good Wife, and Homeland instead of this clunker.

Here’s a short teaser trailer.

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