August 21, 2014

THE SKED Pilot + 1 Review: “Legends”


LEGENDS:  Wednesday 9PM on TNT

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 LEGENDS:  Martin Odum (Sean Bean) is the FBI’s most effective deep cover operative, a man who buries himself in his adopted personas (known as “legends” in the trade) so deeply that sometimes it’s not clear he knows they’re not real.  He rubs his bosses Gates and Chrystal (Steve Harris and Ali Larter) the wrong way with his recklessness, and his marriage to Sonya (Amber Valletta) has fallen apart, but at least he knows he’s unmatched at his job.  Mysterious figures, however, have surfaced to suggest that Martin doesn’t know the full depth of his cover:  “Martin Odum” may be a phony life itself.  In the pilot, two men died on the trail of whatever that may mean.

Episode 2:  The second hour of Legends turned out to be mostly a set-up for future episodes, supplying the backstory for a cover Martin didn’t adopt until the last minute of the episode.  Even worse for a first post-pilot hour–considering that part of the appeal of Legends was supposed to be the variety of roles the chameleon-like Martin would adopt–that identity, when we were finally introduced to it, was the least enticing guise Sean Bean could possibly have taken on:  an Englishman.  It all provided very little reason to be excited about the future path of Legends.

The plot itself was utterly pedestrian, something about Chechen villains who had kidnapped one of their former scientists (now living as an innocent American) and his family to force the man to do evil things with chemical weapons.  The bad guys killed a member of Martin’s team, which was supposed to provide the heroes with a fierce commitment to catch the group, but the murdered character was so vague that his absence had little impact.  Meanwhile, the writers (Executive Producer David Wilcox and the team of Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris), having had Ali Larter undercover as a stripper last week, made her a “banker” who, in a skin-tight red dress, acted like a hooker this time around, a rousing step forward for gender equality.

Meanwhile, there continued to be hints about the continuing mystery of who “Martin Odum” actually is, with the further complication added this week of an LAPD cop becoming suspicious of Martin and–extremely unconvincingly–having him followed, despite being explicitly ordered by his commanding officer not to do so.  Apart from being far-fetched, none of this was particularly interesting.

Sean Bean is a fine, charismatic actor, but he’s not being supported by the material he’s getting to play.  Competently directed by Brad Turner. this Legends hour was a strictly ordinary action-adventure outing, with nothing to suggest the “event” TNT has been selling it as being.

The ratings for the Legends premiere were quite underwhelming, and there seems to be little prospect for an audience to build–especially since the show’s late summer start means that in a few weeks, Legends will be facing off against the new fall season.  Several cable networks have renewed borderline shows this summer (Halt and Catch Fire being the latest and perhaps most surprising to survive), and it remains to be seen whether TNT believes in Legends enough to keep it alive despite its underperformance.  On the basis of its first two hours, there’s little creatively to justify such network mercy.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  If Nothing Else Is On…

PILOT + 1:  The Writers May Need New Identities

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."