Possessing some of the flavor of “National Treasure,” “Agent X” takes the amusing step of investing the Vice President’s office with secret constitutional powers, all for the purpose of concocting a Yankee version of James Bond. And wonder of wonders, it mostly works, at least initially, combining a sense of playfulness with bountiful action and, less successfully, a sweeping conspiracy. Al Gore once joked about the VP being addressed as “Your Adequacy,” but this TNT drama – which feels like a throwback to around the time Gore was sworn in – is actually closer to “Your Pretty Goodness.”
Sharon Stone plays Vice President Natalie Maccabee, who shortly after being ushered to her new residence discovers a hidden passage. “You just beat Lyndon Johnson’s record,” she’s told by her steward, Malcolm Millar (Gerald McRaney), who actually presides over the “Agent X” program, which authorizes the VP to tackle threats foreign and domestic, operating with “judicious disregard for accepted legal formalities.”
Told of her duties, which are intended to give the sitting President (John Shea) “plausible deniability,” Maccabee says, “No kiddin’?” Her personal toy for the requisite field work comes in the form of John Case (Jeff Hephner), a black-ops veteran who is the latest bearer of the show’s title, and presumably will be replaced by another whenever his license to kill (or he) expires.
The threats are, admittedly, fairly predictable, but Hephner brings a nice sense of cool to the role – recalling a young Kevin Costner – and in the opening two-part premiere encounters a deadly and extraordinarily limber Russian spy (Olga Fonda), which only reinforces the Bond-ian vibe.
Series creator William Blake Herron’s credits include “The Bourne Identity,” and while “Agent X” opens on a lighter note, the show begins drifting toward a perhaps too-familiar framework – with a shadowy cabal threatening to upset the established order – in the third and fourth hours, which reflect a qualitative dip compared with the premiere. That said, the action remains solid throughout, and the material is elevated by the casting, which, in addition to the fun interplay among the central trio, includes James Earl Jones as the Chief Justice and Mike Colter (fresh off “The Good Wife,” and bound for “Jessica Jones” and “Luke Cage”) as Speaker of the House.
As noted, “Agent X” appears somewhat conflicted internally, set in a world where threats lurk within the halls of government, and where a Mexican drug cartel can be thwarted simply by having the guts to face off against the big boss. Still, there’s something durably cathartic about the allure of a super-soldier tasked with putting away bad guys, unfettered by concerns about bureaucracy or diplomatic niceties.
How well that will work, and where it fits as TNT goes about tinkering with its programming formula, is unknown. But if “Agent X” doesn’t survive its TV mission, unlike some of the channel’s recent offerings, at least no one should feel compelled to deny any knowledge of its development.