August 13, 2014

THE SKED Series Premiere Review: “Legends”


LEGENDS:  Wednesday 9PM on TNT – If Nothing Else Is On…

After serving as a home for middle-aged procedurals for years, TNT has done well with its recent run of more macho adventures like The Last Ship and Falling Skies.  Its latest entry in that genre is the spy thriller LEGENDS, based on a novel by Robert Littell, and created for television by the very busy Howard Gordon, whose other espionage-laden projects include Homeland, 24 and Tyrant.  It has a classy cast (Ali Larter, Steve Harris, Tina Majorino) headed by the gifted Sean Bean, in his first TV outing since Ned Stark’s famously abrupt exit from Season 1 of Game of Thrones.

For all that, there’s nothing very special about Legends.  The title refers to documented cover stories for undercover operatives, and Bean plays Martin Odum, an FBI agent who’s one of those chameleon-like deep-cover geniuses, able to disappear into his impersonation of the week, sometimes so deeply that he may not even know he’s faking it.  He is, need it even be said, a maverick who doesn’t follow the rules, much to the disgust of his direct supervisor Crystal McGuire (Larter), who happens to be a hot blonde with whom Odum has had an affair, and who, when she’s not barking out orders, is fully capable of passing on critical information while delivering a lap-dance.  (Harris and Majorino are other members of the FBI team.)  The gimmick is that not only is Odum prone to getting too caught up in his undercover personas, he may be living a lie himself, “Martin Odum” being a guise for a cover so deep he doesn’t remember being put into it.

Most of the pilot, though, written by Consulting Producers Jeffrey Nachmanoff and Mark Bomback (Gordon contributed to the pilot story) and directed by David Semel, is highly routine undercover cop stuff, with Martin pretending to be a member of a domestic terrorist group as he makes his way up to direct contact with the group’s hidden leader, known only as the Founding Father (played by Zeljko Ivanek, whose goal seems to be making an appearance on every single drama on television).  We’re told that only Martin will be able to find out what the Founding Father’s target is, even after the FBI knows the group is in Chicago and that a huge IMF conference is being held there.  It all ends with a twitchy finger on a detonator that could set off 500 pounds of explosive, but without much suspense as to whether it will go–to use TNT’s current slogan–Boom.

Bean is a strong presence, even if his British accent is odd in this context (it’s explained that Martin was raised overseas by his Army father), and the hour is put together professionally, with a crisp pace.  All the same, there’s very little here to suggest essential viewing, and the plotting is more convenient than inspired.  (The mysterious man who tells Martin to “Trust NO ONE” is, we instantly know, unlikely to survive to the end of the hour.)  Unless more substance is to emerge in the coming weeks, Legends is, at best, mild summer fare.

Legends will face off with USA’s one remaining hit, the just-renewed Suits, which may make its prospects a bit more unsettled than they’d be on another night.  Still, there’s a reliable audience (mostly older and male) for a slick action procedural, and Legends may be just the bedtime story that group will enjoy.


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."