×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Patriot’ on Amazon

With:

Michael Dorman, Terry O’Quinn, Kurtwood Smith, Michael Chernus, Kathleen Munroe, Aliette Opheim

One of the great things about the spy genre is its elasticity: It can accommodate the cerebral melancholy of “The Americans,” the adrenalized immediacy of the Jason Bourne films, the suave adventure of the James Bond movies and the kind of delightful escapism NBC’s “Chuck” provided for five seasons.

What it can’t support, as demonstrated by the insufferable Amazon series “Patriot,” is forced whimsy gone very wrong.

Patriot” at least tries something novel: It transplants the sensibilities of a Wes Anderson film into the world of spies and their associates. Burned-out operative John Tavner (Michael Dorman) gets a job at a Milwaukee firm that is set to take care of Iran’s piping needs, but his secret mission is to prevent the country from making its nuclear program operational. His pragmatic father, Tom (Terry O’Quinn), runs the State Department’s espionage program, and his rather passive brother, Edward (Michael Chernus), is a U.S. congressman. Completing the trio of men around John is Leslie Claret (Kurtwood Smith), John’s irascible new boss at the piping firm.

It’s a fairly solid premise for a secret-agent caper, and “Patriot” squanders it completely.

John is a bland, depressed man who routinely does unpleasant things, which would be fine if his moroseness or his violent acts were compelling in any way. But nothing about his plight or personality is interesting, and that’s just one of the ways in which “Patriot” departs from the kind of deadpan, slightly askew works that it inexpertly imitates. As for his mission, it goes wrong in ways that seem entirely predictable, and the attempts at dry office comedy rarely land with any impact. 

A very wry comedy-drama hybrid does not necessarily have to prominently feature characters who are deep or three-dimensional. But at the very least, they should be charismatic or amusing, or participate in quests worth following. John has absolutely nothing going for him, nor are the other characters memorable, aside from Smith’s understandably frustrated Leslie Claret.

One of “Patriot’s” main problems is, John and the characters closest to him operate in a high-stakes world in which men, women and children can and do get hurt. The characters don’t seem to care much about any of the damage they do or inadvertently cause— some of which is played for laughs — and yet the show still wants to wring pathos out of various difficult situations and dilemmas. This dismissiveness and even condescension is not only deeply annoying, it destroys the program’s attempts to create a delicate and mildly irreverent tone. In trying to have it both ways — creating situations in which the stakes matter and they’re also laughable obstacles — the show all too frequently misfires in both directions. 

At first, it’s nice to see TV veterans O’Quinn and Smith on screen again, but soon it becomes grating to see such talented actors trapped in such an airless, self-indulgent and smug story. John’s adventures in Milwaukee and Europe grind out at a glacial pace — if ever a show should have stuck to a half-hour running time, it’s this one. And every so often, “Patriot” stops cold so that John, an aspiring folk singer in his spare time, can sing a tune about the questionable things he’s done for the government. Though his singing voice is passable, the tiresome songs provide yet more false notes among many. 

TV Review: 'Patriot' on Amazon

Production:

Drama; 10 episodes (2 viewed); Amazon, Fri., Feb. 24. 60 min.

Crew:

Executive producers, Steven Conrad, James Parriott, Glenn Ficarra, John Requa, Charles Gogolak, Gil Bellows.

Cast:

Michael Dorman, Terry O’Quinn, Kurtwood Smith, Michael Chernus, Kathleen Munroe, Aliette Opheim

More TV

  • Tulsi Gabbard, Tom Steyer, Cory Booker,

    Nonsense Ellen DeGeneres Question Derails an Otherwise Substantive Democratic Debate (Column)

    The fourth Democratic debate was dangerously close to being substantive. For almost three (3!) hours, the twelve (12!) candidates onstage tackled questions on foreign policy, reproductive rights, health care, gun control, big tech, and the opioid crisis. While the other debates — and indeed, the entire 2016 presidential campaign — have been marked by meme-able [...]

  • Pictured (l-r): Doug Jones as Lieutenant

    Mipcom Roundup: E4 Buys 'Star Trek: Discovery'; All3Media Sells Drama Package

    In Variety’s fourth Mipcom roundup, E4 buys U.K. linear rights to “Star Trek: Discovery,” All3Media sells drama package to Pickbox Now, African broadcasters buy 800 hours of content from BBC Studios, France’s Serieclub acquires offbeat Norwegian comedy, ZDF and Red Balloon team for young adult book adaptation, and Viacom and Youku partner on kids’ animation. [...]

  • SAG-AFTRA HQ

    SAG-AFTRA Leaders Approve Music Video Agreement for Performers

    SAG-AFTRA’s national board has approved unanimously an agreement with major record labels on a three-year successor contract to their music video agreement. The new agreement is effective retroactively from May 1, 2019, through April 30, 2022. The major labels party to the agreement are Warner Records, Atlantic Records, Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, Capitol [...]

  • Darren Star, Canneseries 2020 season 03

    Darren Star Reflects on His Iconic Shows And Teases 'Emily in Paris' at Mipcom

    Darren Star, the creator of “Beverly Hills 90210,” “Melrose Place” and “Sex and the City” who was celebrated at Mipcom on Monday and named patron of the upcoming Canneseries festival, said the iconic TV series he created struck a chord throughout the world because of their relatable characters and cultural grounding. “I never thought of [...]

  • Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren,

    How to Watch the Fourth Democratic Primary Debate

    For the first time since Nancy Pelosi launched the impeachment inquiry into President Trump, the top 12 Democratic primary candidates will take part in a debate. This marks the fourth Democratic primary debate of the 2020 campaign season. The event is co-hosted by CNN and the New York Times and will be held at Otterbein [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content