One of the biggest fears that viewers usually have when they are faced with the prospect of jumping into a new drama is whether or not a show will be given the chance to resolve its main mysteries. If you were waiting to jump into NBC's The Blacklist, you're now out of excuses.
NBC has given the James Spader vehicle about a former fed turned criminal turned informant a back nine order. This means that fans will get a full season to see whether Agent Keen can trust anyone, whether the government can contain Spader's Red Reddington, and perhaps most importantly, what exactly Reddington is working toward.
Here's NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke on the decision:
“The many layers of Red Reddington and his mysterious reasons for getting into bed with the FBI seem to be fascinating to fans of this show, [...] With great talent like James Spader and Megan Boone on board, as well our stellar executive producers and the whole cast and crew, we believe this outstanding series will continue to make NBC a big destination on Monday nights.”
The Blacklist has been a huge winner for NBC, dominating its time slot while averaging 12 million viewers. So, is this the next great network drama? Possibly, but the ghosts of past fast starters may signal a need to exercise caution. Remember, The Event looked like a winner at this point a few years ago and so did ABC's Flash Forward. Revolution made it to a second season after a great start, but it returned to sour ratings that only fell further last week.
So what do those shows have in common? A big central mystery and, for the most part, they were hindered by long mid-season hiatuses that seemed to shake viewers off the vine. Will The Blacklist see the same fate if (or when) NBC chooses to bench it for an extended period of time?
Maybe, maybe not. No disrespect to Jason Ritter, Joseph Fiennes, and the Revolution ensemble, but The Blacklist has something that those shows don't have - a singular and magnetic main character. James Spader's Red Reddington simply stands out despite what could be a ho hum story in someone else's hands. People aren't just tuning in to see how The Blacklist unfolds, they're tuning in to see Spader the showman. His charm, his wit, the way he plays cat and mouse - that's the addictive elixir, and a winning formula it is.
There's a vast and impressive history of shows that rose above somewhat tired stories thanks to their compelling lead characters/actors, but if you need a recent example, look at House.
That show merged the detective and medical procedural genres, and while it had able supporting players and some really gripping drama, would we have really cared as much if not for Hugh Laurie? He was the #1 reason that people watched. And though The Blacklist has a lot going for it besides James Spader, if the character keeps developing like he has, it might be similarly successful.
The Blacklist airs Mondays @10pm on NBC