by Johanna Rigby
While I swore I never wanted to write about TV again, or at least for a very long time, the Fall Season has come around with its grab-bag full of new shows. While most will be crap, I’m actually seeing a few that I think will be worth watching, so I may relent and share those with you when I find them. Blindspot is one such show.
I also feel the need to do this because most other people who write about TV seem to do so with an eye toward ratings and the entertainment industry, which is just not my thing. I don’t watch TV just to watch TV. I need something more from it (otherwise I’d be spending my time reading), and that’s why Gatewood runs these pieces. I believe that despite its most prevalent use as entertaining pap for the mindless masses, TV – like film – is capable of being artistic and thought-provoking.
The fact that networks will only give us high-quality shows if ratings are at a level they consider high enough shouldn’t make us despair; those levels vary greatly from one network to another, and networks’ requirements for “success” are arbitrary and capriciously subject to change. However, one thing remains constant: if no one watches it, they’ll replace it with something else. This is why I feel the need to let you know when something of quality turns up on my TV-radar.
Now, back to why you should watch Blindspot. If you’re unfamiliar with the premise of the show, here’s the concept: a naked woman with amnesia is found in Times Square with her body covered in intricate tattoos. (If the phrase “naked amnesiac tattooed woman” isn’t sufficient to pique your attention, let me add “incredibly hot” to that.) The most prominent tattoo on her back is the name of an FBI agent, which, of course, gets the ball rolling, as they begin to analyze her tattoos and Jane Doe begins to rediscover her identity. So we’re talking about complex psychological issues plus enough standard crime-show procedural drama to allow the less discerning audience to feel comfortable.
“But I’ve got crosswords to do, dogs to walk, New Yorkers to read!” I hear you saying. “Why should I take an hour of my evening to watch a woman with amnesia tag along while dour FBI agents crash around chasing bad guys?”
I’m glad you asked. Here’s why:
1. Contrary to what many TV reviewers seemed to feel, Jane Doe does not come across as flat or without personality. That would certainly be a possibility with a lesser actress, but Jaimie Alexander does a fantastic job with bringing a fascinating character to life. Think Trinity from The Matrix trilogy meets Charly Baltimore from The Long Kiss Goodnight.
2. Amnesia is fascinating to those of us who don’t have it. We tend to romanticize it somewhat: a chance to start over, a new beginning, etc. But for anyone who looks at things from a neurological or psychological perspective, this is like catnip to kittens.
3. We need to let the networks know when they’ve done something worthy of our appreciation. NBC gave us The Blacklist, and that went well enough for them to take a chance on something like Blindspot rather than more of the same old mind-numbing lackluster crap. The best way to encourage them to give us more quality programming is by watching the good stuff so it gets the highest possible ratings. (Remember what happened with poor Kyle Killen’s excellent Awake when people thought it was too complicated for their little brains to enjoy?)
4. Some of you may enjoy Sullivan Stapleton as the aforementioned dour FBI agent. I found his character flat, but possibly that’s just an artistic pilot-episode choice in order to give room for us to get to know Jane Doe first. I’m willing to cut some slack on this because character development in pilot episodes is extremely difficult. It really is hard to do much more than scratch the surface in the first episode of a show. (For a classic example, look back at the first episode of Big Bang Theory and compare Season 1 Leonard to the Leonard of any recent episode.)
5. The procedural framework is balanced well against the amnesia/tattoo-map concept. These are two intertwining threads, each story moving the other forward. Neither takes over the show.
6. Marianne Jean-Baptiste is always a treat to watch, and her character here is no exception. She’s capable of showing highly complex situations with minimal screen time, and does so beautifully in the pilot. I certainly hope we see more of her during the series. I also hope the writers will allow her to continue to be more than a stock character of harried-supervisor-trying-to-rein-in-her-loose-cannon-agent.
7. The doctor actually sounds like a real human-being doctor. It would be easy to make up credible-sounding-but-inherently-flawed theories for him to expound upon, just to further the plot. And there may be some fast-and-loose “facts” created for him to utilize in his explanations, but it comes across as reasonable, plausible, and not unlike things your own doctor might say if insurance company constraints weren’t a factor.
8. The supporting cast is unobtrusive and mostly believable. Again, character development in a pilot episode is difficult – supporting characters especially so. There may not be much more to them than we already have, and that’s OK. I do think their resident tech geek is questionable, but that may because she just doesn’t seem quirky enough (yet) to be a tech geek. Again, these are supporting characters. It’s not a big deal if they never develop much more than this, provided the main characters can continue to pull off the story as brilliantly as they are so far.
9. We need to give the networks a reason to show us something besides “reality” programming. You’re probably not reading Gatewood if you watch a lot of “reality” TV, but if you’ve somehow stumbled here and truly believe that what you’re seeing on those shows is real, then I need to fix you up with my Nigerian half-brother who’s a professional wrestler.
10. Somewhat related to #3 and #9, when a network steps out of their comfort zone and goes against their typical programming to give us something amazing (I’m looking at you, USA Network, with that fantastic gem of a show Mr. Robot), we need to do whatever we can to support it if we want to keep it. Watch it, tell your friends, tweet it, announce to anyone who’ll listen that you’ve found something worth watching that has absolutely nothing to do with weight loss, singing lessons, or people making big fools of themselves just to be famous for being famous.
So there you have it. I’m definitely watching the next episode. If you missed the pilot, you can catch it on the NBC website here, where you can also read more about the show, characters, cast, etc. Blindspot airs on NBC, Mondays at 10:00 p.m.
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