TV Review: NBC's 'The Blacklist'

NBC premieres The Blacklist, a drama starring James Spader as an ex-government agent gone rogue, on Monday at 10/9 c. The following are reviews from TV critics around the Web, compiled by B&C.

“Spader runs the plays well. He’s a ham, but an effective one, which is to say that he lets the audience enjoy his own sheer enjoyment of playing the outsize role, with every droll one-liner and cultivated sneer. (’I think I smell the stench of your cologne, Agent Cooper. Smells like hubris.’) It’s a fine trick to indulge in this kind of role without seeming self-indulgent, but Spader has a gift for letting the audience indulge vicariously through him; he’s the Guy Fieri of scenery-chewing. Decked out in a black hat, exuding cockiness like a $1,000-an-ounce oil, he owns every second he’s onscreen.”
–James Poniewozik, Time

“Spader has always been a particularly interesting actor, and he’s well suited to this sort of twisted figure, where so much is going on behind those eyes. That said, he’s all that lifts The Blacklist above the mundane, and at least initially, the format limits his screen time, in the same way James Purefoy was shackled (literally, come to think of it) for much of The Following’s first season.”
–Brian Lowry, Variety

“But most of all, the premise of this show is promising enough to warrant a return visit: A charismatic turncoat of mysterious motivation teams up with feds to track down a blacklist of dangerous terrorists so underground that the government doesn’t even know about them? Sign me up. Especially when that guy is played by an actor as interesting as Spader.”
–Diane Garrett, The Wrap

“It’s certainly an intriguing pilot – you can’t take your eyes off of Spader and the writers have thrown in a couple of other interesting twists. It’s likely that The Blacklist will at least approach the bad-guy-a-week format of a closed-ended procedural that doesn’t tax viewers’ brains too much. But in the process, the pilot suggests there are other things to keep you interested along the way.”
–Tim Goodman, The Hollywood Reporter

“Not much thought seems to be put into The Blacklist, except for the kind of hanging plot threads and mystery cliffhangers that are supposed to hook an audience and guarantee that they’ll come back to see another annex built onto the show’s ‘mythology.’ Spader is fun to watch in a shallow, ornamental way, but he’d be worth caring about if there were some limits to his character’s abilities.”
–Phil Dyess-Nugent, The A.V. Club