×

TV Review: ‘The Blacklist’

James Spader vehicle plays like a 'Silence of the Lambs' sequel

With:

James Spader, Megan Boone, Diego Klattenhoff, Ryan Eggold, Harry Lennix, Ilfenesh Hadera

If “Hannibal” was a prequel to “The Silence of the Lambs,” “The Blacklist” plays like a de facto sequel — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. 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. Still, unlike a lot of this fall’s new hours, “The Blacklist” at least warrants a return visit — and perhaps more if Spader’s serpent-like villain can become more than just Hannibal Lite.

To be fair, in terms of movie touchstones, “Blacklist” is an equal-opportunity borrower. The opening, for example, is straight out of “Seven,” with Spader’s one-time government agent turned master criminal, Raymond “Red” Reddington, walking into FBI headquarters, dropping to his knees as officers surround him and giving himself up to authorities.

“For the moment, our interests are aligned,” he tells the skeptical feds, headed by Harry Lennix, before insisting that an obscure young female agent serve as his conduit and chief contact, for reasons he won’t divulge.

No, it’s not Clarice Starling, but newbie Agent Liz Keen (Megan Boone), who is as mystified by the request as her bosses. Yet she dutifully goes to interview Reddington in a cell seemingly designed to contain Magneto, where the suspect snarls vague clues during tight closeups, setting the FBI after an international “24”-like baddie who Reddington wants to see behind bars.

“I’m gonna make you famous, Lizzie,” he tells her, this target being just first of a catalog of criminals he’d like to see caught.

Spader has always been a particularly interesting actor, and he’s well suited to this sort of twisted figure, where so much is going on behind those eyes. That said, he’s all that lifts “The Blacklist” above the mundane, and at least initially, the format limits his screen time, in the same way James Purefoy was shackled (literally, come to think of it) for much of “The Following’s” first season.

NBC obviously has a hell of a lot riding on this Sony-produced hour, which the network is giving the plum timeslot coming out of “The Voice,” the one truly formidable lead-in in its arsenal. Yet like a lot of procedurals with a built-in backstory — and the list aspect provides the spine for that — the question remains how well the producers can dole out elements to raise the stakes beyond just whether the next name winds up dead or in cuffs.

Minus that concern, “The Blacklist” probably ranks as one of the fall’s more promising new network hours. But that’s the result of grading on a curve — and matching the show up against a pretty gray list.

TV Review: 'The Blacklist'

(Series; NBC, Mon. Sept. 23, 10 p.m.)

Production:

Filmed in New York by Davis Entertainment in association with Sony Pictures Television.

Crew:

Executive producers, John Eisendrath, Jon Bokenkamp, John Davis, John Fox, Joe Carnahan; co-executive producers, Richard Heus (pilot), Gerrit van der Meer, Jace Alexander, John C. Kelley, Patrick Masset, John Zinman, Wendy West; producer, Anthony Sparks; director, Joe Carnahan; writer, Bokenkamp; camera, Frank Prinzi; production designer, Andy Jackness; editors, Sue Blainey, Chris Brookshire, Nathan Gunn; music, John Bissell; casting directors, Suzanne Smith Crowley, Jessica Kelly, Brad Kenny, Rick Pagano, Debi Manwiller. 60 MIN.

Cast:

James Spader, Megan Boone, Diego Klattenhoff, Ryan Eggold, Harry Lennix, Ilfenesh Hadera

More TV

  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks

    TV Ratings: Trump Impeachment First Day Draws 11 Million Viewers

    The opening day of President Trump’s senate impeachment trial drew a substantial amount if viewers across the three cable news and major networks that broadcast the proceedings. In total, around 11 million people tuned in to see prosecutors from the House of Representatives and attorneys for the White House argue over exactly how the complicated [...]

  • ABC Logo

    ABC Picks Up Drama Pilot 'Harlem's Kitchen' From 'Scandal' Writer

    ABC has made their third drama pilot pick up and fourth pilot pick up overall for the 2020-2021 season. The broadcaster has ordered the drama pilot “Harlem’s Kitchen.” It is described as an ensemble family drama set in a fine dining restaurant in Harlem. Ellis Rice, Executive Chef and patriarch, runs a successful restaurant with [...]

  • Cate Blanchett Mrs. America

    'FX on Hulu' Shows Will Be Counted as FX at the Emmys (EXCLUSIVE)

    Upcoming original series “Devs,” “Mrs. America,” “A Teacher” and “The Old Man” won’t actually air on FX — but the network will still get credit when it comes to Emmy consideration. The Television Academy has said that all “FX on Hulu” shows — which will air exclusively on Hulu, and not on the linear network [...]

  • Johnny Flynn

    Johnny Flynn Joins Andrew Scott in Showtime Series 'Ripley'

    Johnny Flynn has been cast opposite Andrew Scott in the upcoming Showtime series based on Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley novels. Flynn will appear in a series regular role in the eight-episode first season. In “Ripley,” Tom Ripley (Scott), a grifter scraping by in early 1960s New York, is hired by a wealthy man to try [...]

  • Bill Abbott

    Crown Media President, CEO Bill Abbott Steps Down

    Bill Abbott is exiting his post as president and CEO of Crown Media, the parent company of Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries and Hallmark Drama. The company made the announcement on Wednesday. “After 11 years, Bill Abbott, president and CEO of Crown Media is leaving the company,” said Mike Perry, president and CEO of [...]

  • 'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' Trailer

    'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' Trailer Shows Epic Finale on Disney Plus

    Nearly 10 years and three networks later, “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” is finally getting its last season. Disney Plus will premiere the seventh and final season of the animated series on Feb. 21, likely releasing the 12 episodes weekly, similar to what the new streaming service did for “The Mandalorian.” It’s been six years [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content