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Hercules Says NBC’s THE BLACKLIST Is One Of The Fall’s Better Network Pilots, But Questions The Series’ Ability To Make His Watchlist!!

I am – Hercules!!

A dramatic thriller about what happens when “the concierge of crime” turns himself in to the FBI to help them fight crime, “The Blacklist” comes to us from screenwriter Jon Bokenkamp, whose big-screen credits include 2001’s “Bad Seed” (20% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes) and this year’s Halle Berry vehicle “The Call” (Tomatometer score: 43% positive).

Bokenkamp seems to be trying to smoosh “Silence of the Lambs” into “Alias” by borrowing from both. But “Blacklist” confused me more than “Lambs” and “Alias.”

I’m not sure why Spader’s supercriminal character is sometimes weirdly super-restrained by the FBI (strapped to a chair in a glass cage of emotion, so evocative of post-capture Lecter), then later not restrained very much at all (just wandering around among the FBI agents as he examines agency evidence). And then I was confused even more by everyone’s surprise when the Spader character escapes.

More confusion: When Spader warns the FBI that the small child it has in custody is a high-value kidnap target -- why is my untrained eye more suspicious of the surprise obstacle that blocks the kid’s government convoy than these highly trained FBI agents?

The best thing about the project is Spader, whose Red Reddington is as fun to watch here as his Alan Shore was on “Boston Legal” and his Robert California was on “The Office” a couple of seasons back.

And I judge “Blacklist," for all its faults, one of the networks’ better fall pilots -- but that’s just damning it with faint praise. I might revisit “Blacklist,” but the pilot does not fill me with confidence.

Time says:

... to the extent that Reddington is compelling, it’s because Spader is doing all the work. He gets little help from the pilot script …

HuffPost says:

... "The Blacklist" is never going to be anyone's idea of great art, but at least it has a pulpy kind of momentum that may well be worth watching for a while; I will stick around to see whether Spader's performance really is the only dish on the menu. …

HitFix says:

... I can let some derivative writing go if a show has a clear understanding of what it is, and, more importantly, has a thing it does very well. Do I need to see another episode of this? Probably not. Will I watch it more just to enjoy Spader and see if Red's motivation is the thing everyone has been assuming since the trailer was released? Absolutely. …

The New York Times says:

... withholds a lot of information, including why Reddington turned himself in and why he feels a kinship with Elizabeth, who is fresh out of Quantico and has no known history with him or his criminal career. Once those questions are cleared up, what’s left is a more commonplace procedural: Reddington manipulating the top brass while helping Elizabeth track down dangerous suspects. …

The Los Angeles Times says:

... The set up is promising, the writing is clever enough and Boone hits her marks like a pro. But Spader? He's having a blast, and ensuring that we do the same.

The Chicago Sun-Times says:

... could be the fall’s best new drama if it doesn’t veer off course and drive into the ditches of hokey predictability or outrageous implausibility. …

The Washington Post says:

... The pilot episode is stylish and swiftly paced, but that’s all it is, and despite some intriguing plot twists, there’s not a lot of motivation to keep coming back. …

The San Francisco Chronicle says:

... the first really terrific new series of the fall season. …

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says:

... viewers who can handle the twists and turns will be intrigued, particularly by Mr. Spader's performance. He's perfectly cast as the show's enigmatic lead character, a self-amused mastermind with a murky past who's just as comfortable being cheeky as menacing. …

The Boston Herald says:

... doesn’t have the pulse, say, of a “24,” but it races in the right direction. …

USA Today says:

... while for now Spader is enough, it would help the show's long-term chances if the other characters grew to match him, something the writers undoubtedly have planned. Or they'd better. …

The Hollywood Reporter says:

... First, it’s got James Spader at the center of it, giving a dazzling performance that should make viewers want to come back every week for more. Secondly, it’s a procedural – which viewers really love, but there’s an over-arching element to the premise as well that makes it intriguing without making it overly complicated. In short, a winning combo. …

Variety says:

... Creating a toothy vehicle for James Spader, few series can boast such a compelling central figure, even if his cryptic comments and opaque motives risk giving way to a rather familiar procedural. …

10 p.m. Monday. NBC.

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