Agent X: TNT Sends Secret Agent Series to the Bench

TNT have axed a number of shows, two new and one that had returned with a drastically changed premise and cast. The secret agent series Agent X has been sent to the bench along with Public Morals, another new series.

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TNT have axed a number of shows, two new and one that had returned with a drastically changed premise and cast.  The secret agent series Agent X has been sent to the bench along with Public Morals, another new series. Legends, which had returned with Sean Bean as the “solo” actor to return from season one (apart from Morris Chestnut as FBI agent Tony Rice), has also been sent off the field.

Out of the three who have been cancelled, only Legends was no real surprise. While the first season squeaked into a second chance, the premise of a deep cover agent who had real identity problems could have worked, but not after taking out so much of the cast. Bean is an excellent actor but the chemistry between he and Ali Larter and Tina Majorino worked well, their removal felt like a coup of sorts instead of a re-imaging of the show’s plot line.

Public Morals was entertaining in a niche sort of way, Irish cops and a time when the beat meant taking bribes and under the table payments to look the other way. Criminals were handled and tolerated in this show and it could have been interesting to see how things were going to turn out.

Of the shows relegated into anonymity  Agent X showed the most promise, despite a rather tepid performance by figurehead star Sharon Stone. Jeff Hephner gave a performance that entertained even then the show’s writers left his character to stumble. Part of the problem had to do with  the show wanting to run before it could walk.

Time spent allowing the character of John Case to develop was minimal, instead plot devices were used to endanger the character before the audience ever really cared. Stone, as the vice president underplayed her role so much that she could have been sleepwalking. Gerald McRaney was good value, as was Olga Fonda, but this was not enough to guarantee a huge audience.

Sadly, the two characters with the best chemistry, Fonda and Hephner, were not paired up enough. Granted the inclusion of Andrew Howard, who was eliminated over on Agents of SHIELD,  turning up as “Bond-ian” villain Volker/Ray Palmer, was a nice touch but once again the audience was expected to really care whether Case won over his old colleague.

The shooting of President Eckhart (John Shea) also did not really accomplish much apart from allowing Stone to awaken from her slumber a second time. (The first being in an earlier episode where the actress got a little action in with a sidearm.) Of course the plot line relied upon a conspiracy to kill the president, but sadly, we never saw enough of Eckhart to like him, let alone care that he had been shot.

In the previous episode, it is revealed that not only Eckhart, but Millar (McRaney) as well, are not very nice people. This revelation means that the near-death of the president is even less bothersome than perhaps the creators had hoped for.

Agent X had the best viewing figures, but apparently not high enough to keep the show going.  It seems that “action” genre shows are not meant to be in 2015. NBC cancelled their slow starter The Player (which incidentally also had a film star figurehead, Wesley Snipes; who “got it” a lot faster than Stone) right after it settled into a decent pace and gave us more interesting characters.

Perhaps the demographic aimed at by TNT and NBC do not want action.  Something must be keeping the viewing figures down, each show, Agent X and The Player, and Legends to a degree, had impressive fight scenes, stunts and car chases.  It could well be that with insanely paced action films like Furious 7 and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation on offer, small screen versions just cannot keep up.

With the Internet and On Demand streaming, Netflix, Hulu and a plethora of other channels and websites  competing with television , it looks like the networks need to “up their game.”  That said, there also appears to be no real bench mark to aim for. Shows like Quantico (Miss World and Mr Universe put on FBI badges)  and Blindspot (which is basically “let’s solve a tattoo a week”  show) have fared quite well.

Still, Agent X will be missed, as will Sean Bean and those Irish cops in Public Morals. There was enough diversity in each show that the series offered something in the area of entertainment.  Things have changed in the viewing stakes, there are other shows with viewing figures comparable to Agent X‘s 1.7 million per episode. While these numbers are not overly impressive, they are more the norm for viewer figures across the board.

In the meantime TNT have, apparently, allowed Agent X the luxury of finishing out its only  season. Unfortunately it is difficult to watch a “deadman walking” series and drum up any enthusiasm.  Ironically, Sunday’s episode, Angels and Demons, brought back Olga Fonda but sadly it is a case of too little too late.  RIP Agent X and John Case.

Public Morals: Mad Men with Guns – Binging on 1965

Public Morals TNT

TNT and Edward Burns have a hit with Public Morals. Allowing viewers to binge on the 10 episode season over the long weekend has given them the chance to get intimate with the 1965 Hell’s Kitchen denizens. The series follows a group of cops who walk a fine line between the law, or as Terry Muldoon puts it, keeping a lid on everything as the landlords. There is a ring of authenticity to this “throwback” cop show; the sets, the cars, the music, the clothes and the dialogue all fit in this Mad Men with guns look at the age of change in America.

Burns is the series creator and he wrote, directed, produced and starred in the show and is, as he put it, telling the Irish-American story in the US. Picking a time when the world was going through massive upheaval, he focusses on the streets of New York and the different crime factions who were all elbowing one another for control of bit more money and turf.

The show has an impressive roster of performers. Brian Dennehy as Joe Patton, Michael Rapaport as Charlie Bullman, Neal McDonough as Rusty Patton and Ruben Santiago-Hudson as Lt. King. Timothy Hutton is Mr O (O’Bannon), a man whose demise threatens to start an all-out war for control of Hell’s Kitchen.

Elizabeth Masucci plays Terry’s wife Christine, Katrina Bowden is the hooker, and increasing love interest of Charlie Bullman and Michele Hicks is Kay O’Bannon, widow of Mr. O and lover of Rusty Patton.  

Public Morals is about the Irish cops who worked the streets in New York and did what they had to in order to put food on the table and a roof over their families heads. In many ways, this cops and mobsters story feels like a variation of other shows that have gone back to the “good old days’ for a change of pace.

Like NBCs Aquarius, the David Duchovny vehicle based on the search for Charles Manson which is also based in the 1960s, Burns’ series attempts to put the viewer in a time machine, where twist top beer bottles did not exist and ring pulls on tin cans were brand new, cutting edge technology. The main difference is that while the NBC show may be based on reality the TNT offering feels more real.

The NBC show uses the “hippy” music of the era and relies upon a different set of pop culture references   for their background while the TNT series relies on the music  that the “grown ups” were listening to and icons that the older set enjoyed.  Perry Como, Sammy Davis Jr. et al play in the background while the snap brim fedora-wearing plainclothes cops go through their lives.

The series looks taut and tastes a bit like other time period cop shows, for example, the Vegas based show Crime Story, which was about the mob in the desert town.  Public Morals works well enough that everything does look and feel like 1965, the year the show is set in.

This is a good solid hit with a great plot, interesting storylines and characters that feel so real we care about them.  Widower Bullman who lives with his mother and three kids, Muldoon the family man and the rest all have depth and prove to be interesting as dothe other characters who fill this world.

It is nice to see Michael Rapaport play a “good guy” after his character in Justified (Rapaport played Daryl Crowe Jr. a hillbilly criminal who was disturbing to say the least.) Kudos go to Edward Burns  who allows his fellow actors to shine and has picked his  performers well.

TNT will, hopefully, allow Public Morals to come back for another season, if, Edward Burns is not too exhausted from all he has given himself to do. This is a great looking, superb sounding and interesting bit of entertainment.  A tale of Irish-American cops, gangsters and their families. As the Irish say, “It’s a good bit of  crack.”

Do not miss this one, it is special.