'Blindspot': Can the new high-concept show win over wary viewers?
'Blindspot' stars Jaimie Alexander as a woman who is found in a duffel bag in Times Square with no memory of who she is or why she is covered in tattoos. The show co-stars Sullivan Stapleton and Marianne Jean-Baptiste.
The NBC show “Blindspot,” which stars actress Jaimie Alexander, premiered on Sept. 21.
In “Blindspot,” “Thor” actress Alexander is discovered in a duffel bag in Times Square. She can't remember how she got there or who she is. She is covered in tattoos. And she soon discovers she has skills in combat and foreign languages.
The show co-stars Sullivan Stapleton as a member of the FBI who works with Ms. Alexander’s character, who becomes known as Jane Doe.
The idea of the show is one that will be familiar to anyone who’s watched network television in the decade after ABC's “Lost.” That show became a mega-hit by laying out an overarching question for the show: what was happening on the island where a plane full of passengers crashed? A mysterious monster seemed to prey on people, and early on, a survivor spotted a polar bear, a strange sight on a tropical island. In addition to the main mystery, the show's producers introduced smaller mysteries like what was inside an enigmatic hatchway discovered by some of the passengers.
“Lost” got huge ratings, especially at the beginning of its run, and aired for six seasons. The show embraced a thriller-like tone, with action scenes and fast-paced plots.
There have been many imitators since, from shows that focused on science fiction or supernatural elements, or those that introduced mysteries in the hopes of enticing viewers.
“Blindspot” seems to be of a similar breed. The show's central premise is a mystery: what happened to this woman? In addition, Jane Doe’s fighting skills lend themselves to helping the FBI.
What else would make NBC take a chance on this show? Their current success “The Blacklist,” which stars James Spader as a criminal who decides to work with the FBI and is a mysterious figure.
Paul Levinson, author and professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University, thought the premiere was "really excellent." He found Stapleton in particular to be an "outstanding actor" and thought the show "captures the New York ambience really well... I think the show has a lot of potential," he says.
The question with “Blindspot” now will be whether those behind the show can sustain the premise in any kind of satisfying manner, and whether viewers will be there long enough to get any answers. It’s no surprise another new NBC show, a new take on their mid-2000s hit “Heroes,” is billing itself as only 13 episodes. The original “Heroes” shed viewers and lost critical acclaim as the show continued. Some of those who watched lost patience with the show’s meandering storylines.
“Blindspot” creator Martin Gero is aware of this problem. “In today's environment when you're pitching TV shows, it's impossible to just walk in with a great pilot idea,” he said in an interview. “Each tattoo has a very clear raison d'etre, so to speak, as far as a bigger, overarching plan that the people who did this to her have. So we're rock-solid on that.”
Will viewers trust the plan? In this TV era, rich with long-form, high-budget, plot-heavy dramas, those behind a show like this will need to work harder than ever before to woo viewers to a high-concept show.
Levinson knows there have been various programs that have burned out. "Once the show gets going, the show doesn't maintain this level of tension and excellence," he says of these problematic shows.
He thinks "Blindspot" may be able to go the distance, however. "It's a less crazy show than 'Lost,'" Levinson says.