TV Review: ‘Legends’

Given how Sean Bean left his last series role, it’s nice to see him in one piece on “Legends,” inasmuch as he’s the principal asset barely lifting this TNT drama above its familiar moorings. Developed by “24” and “Homeland” producer Howard Gordon, the series about a deep-cover operative is adapted from Robert Littell’s novel, but probably owes a more sizable debt in TV terms to “Wiseguy,” a late-’80s artifact that felt very much ahead of its time. “Legends,” by contrast, is rooted in its “Blacklist”-informed present, trying — and not fully succeeding – to infuse a cop procedural with a deeper mythological spine.

Bean is smartly introduced in the midst of an undercover plot, having infiltrated a group of domestic terrorists. He disappears into his alter ego, from the accent (complete with stammer) to a fluency in the fictional character’s history that comes in handy when pressed by the bad guys to prove himself.

Like most paladins of this trade, Bean’s Martin Odum is something of a loner, but he’s still part of a crack team headed by Crystal McGuire (“Heroes’” Ali Larter), who, in addition to being the boss, can convincingly go undercover as a stripper if the need arises. The producers being no fools, it does.

Their boss, meanwhile, is played by the always-welcome Steve Harris, while Tina Majorino pops up as one of those tech-savvy newbies who can cobble together an online profile in a matter of moments — Martin’s Chloe O’Brian, as it were, when he’s in the field.

To its credit, “Legends” goes a bit beyond the expected stings, as a shadowy figure prompts Martin to doubt everything he knows and question whom he can trust.

For the most part, though, almost everything here feels culled from earlier variations on this theme, including Martin’s estranged wife (Amber Valletta), the adoring young kid (Mason Cook) he can never find enough time to visit, and the psychological toll exacted by leading such a double life.

Bean is a compelling presence, and the second episode also introduces Morris Chestnut as an FBI agent who crosses his path, adding to the solid cast. (That hour finds Chechen terrorists driving the plot, continuing the renewed popularity of thugs from that part of the world as go-to heavies.)

Ultimately, “Legends” (a name derived from code for deep-cover agents) will hinge on how much people enjoy watching Bean inhabit these characters, the escape into such disguises being one of those fun-for-actors toys. But while Martin fights a noble battle to keep the world safe and unearth secrets about his past, the series is waging a more mundane struggle that pits its slickness against a lack of originality.

So far, it’s not bad. But in the context of today’s raised bar for dramas, it’s not remotely legendary.

TV Review: 'Legends'

(Series; TNT, Wed. Aug. 13, 9 p.m.)

Production

Filmed in Los Angeles by Teakwood Lane Prods. in association with Fox 21.

Crew

Executive producers, Howard Gordon, Alexander Cary, Jonathan Levin, Brad Turner, David Wilcox, Ethan Reiff, Cyrus Voris, David Semel; co-executive producer, Vahan Moosekian; producer, Kelly A. Manners; director, Semel; writers, Mark Bomback, Jeffrey Nachmanoff; story by Gordon, Bomback, Nachmanoff; based on the book by Robert Littell; camera, Sidney Sidell; production designer, Jeremy Cassells; editors, Scott Powell, Stephen Mark, Tod Feuerman; music, Reinhold Heil; casting, Cathy Sandrich Gelfond, Amanda Mackey, Kate Caldwell. 60 MIN.

Cast

Sean Bean, Ali Larter, Morris Chestnut, Tina Majorino, Steve Harris, Amber Valletta, Mason Cook

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  1. Judy says:

    Far right militia’s planning terrorist attacks? Really? While ISIS is beheading and crucifying Christians in Iraq, Al Kaeda is still going strong, Islamic terrorists blowing up Boston, MS 13 pouring into the southern border and who’s the big threat? Right wing militias. Wake up TNT. Love Sean Bean. You guys are jerks.

    • Sai Namuduri says:

      Actually, domestic terrorism is a far bigger threat than any external force in the US right now. The FBI has actually been tracking a huge spike in far right-wing extremist militias for the last couple decades or so. ISIS only has the power they do because WE trained their current leaders in battlefield tactics, personnel management, weapons deployment, and strategy – and because we made the mistake of leaving a shitton of materiel with the Afghan army who abandoned it afterwards. Same story with Al-Qaeda, whose top lieutenants (including Bin Laden) the CIA trained in the 80s when they were still mujahideen fighting a proxy war against the USSR. AQ is, for all intents and purposes, dead on the international geopolitical stage. MS-13 and the cartels they’re affiliated with still exist because the CIA’s SAD and SOG divisions profit heavily from the drug trade to the tune of billions in blacker than black money that doesn’t show up even on the most classified of black budgets. The brothers who bombed the Boston Marathon were not even remotely Muslim in any sense of the word – one of them converted to a radical sect that’s been affiliated with Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, neither of whom the population of “normal” Muslims would associate with. So your entire argument is wrong. Even the CIA can’t rewrite history.

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