February 13, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Pilot + 1 Review: “Allegiance”


ALLEGIANCE:  Thursday 10PM on NBC

A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at SHOWBUZZDAILY, we look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on ALLEGIANCE:  Alex O’Connor (Gavin Stenhouse) has an Unforgettable-level memory–if also a semi-Asperbergian inability to handle social intercourse–that have made him the CIA’s most brilliant analyst.  One thing he hasn’t figured out, though, is that his mother Katya (Hope Davis), father Mark (Scott Cohen) and sister Natalie (Margarita Levieva) have been Russian spies for decades.  They’ve been in deep cover, but that’s about to change now that Alex has been made a field agent, and the Russians are plotting a dire attack on the US.

Episode 2:  The second hour of Allegiance, with a script by Executive Producer John Glenn, from a story by Co-Producer Jon Worley, and directed by series creator George Nolfi, started sinking right from the opening scene.  The pilot had ended with what appeared to be the moment when Alex would find out that his parents were spies, which at least allowed for the possibility of some double and triple crossing, as he tried to keep his own investigation from coming too close to home.  Instead, the episode picked up with Katya glibly lying that her unexplained absences while Alex was growing up was because she was having an affair, and that left Alex in the dark.

Instead, Allegiance is turning out to be a tiresome show about everyone running surveillance on everybody else.  Alex and his CIA/FBI task force trailed a Russian agent who was tied in with some magic computer program that’s going to self-destruct in the next episode unless it’s found.  Katya and Mark bugged Alex’s shirt button (no, really).  The evil Russians tracked Alex, and Katya and Mark kept tabs on their Russian allies to protect their son.  Meanwhile, Alex twitched and stared so that we’d remember that he can’t deal with other people, especially the hot bisexual FBI agent who’s been teamed with him, when he wasn’t regurgitating obscure facts and demonstrating what a genius he is.

Allegiance isn’t working on any level.  The spycraft is rudimentary and second-hand, the villains are generic, and none of the family dynamics are remotely convincing as the workings of real people who are supposed to be close to one another.  In addition, the show’s insistence that its supposedly brilliant protagonist has a blind spot the size of a subway train where his family is concerned makes him seem dumb for all the expertise in fiber optic technology he’s able to pick up overnight.  Aside from the thoroughly professional Davis, no one in the cast is adding much to the mix either, and that goes especially for the bland Stenhouse.  It’s not just that FX’s The Americans is incomparably better at telling its similar story, but that Allegiance is bad on its own.

This isn’t going to be a long-term problem for NBC.  The premiere ratings for Allegiance were subpar, and last night’s number was disastrously down from that, so the show may run out its string until May, but is virtually certain to disappear after that.  In what happens to be a fine era for spy series on TV, this one is treasonably bad.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  If Nothing Else Is On…

PILOT + 1:  Remedial Espionage



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."