Thursday, March 5, 2015

3 worthy Monday premieres

"Mom" boasts Newhart rhythms; high-stakes "Hostages," "Blacklist" vie for pride of time slot.

"The Blacklist" stars James Spader as a turncoat agent who turns himself in to the FBI, promising secrets for . . . whatever he wants.
"The Blacklist" stars James Spader as a turncoat agent who turns himself in to the FBI, promising secrets for . . . whatever he wants.
"The Blacklist" stars James Spader as a turncoat agent who turns himself in to the FBI, promising secrets for . . . whatever he wants. Gallery: 3 worthy Monday premieres

And we're off. The fall TV season emerges in full flower on Monday night, with the return of old favorites (Bones, How I Met Your Mother, Castle) and the premieres of three series.

Mom (9:30 p.m. on CBS3) comes to us, like most of the sitcoms on CBS, from producer Chuck Lorre. It's the sweet story of a woman and her daughter, both single moms, and the hard-won wisdom they are passing down to a new generation.

No. No it's not. It's the amusingly addled story of Christy (Anna Faris), a woman with 99 problems, chief among them trying to get sober after years of alcohol abuse.

Her sobriety is challenged by her mother (Allison Janney), who makes Charlie Sheen look like a healthy role model. French Stewart also gets a funny turn as the brutally cynical chef at the fancy restaurant where Christy works.

Faris is delightful, adept at riding all the various cars on Christy's emotional roller coaster: resentment, tenderness, despair, neediness, etc.

Mom has the hallmarks of Lorre's other hits, The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men: It's a punch-line shooting gallery, setting 'em up and knocking 'em down, with a rhythm reminiscent of the classic Bob Newhart sitcoms.

It's also the rather incompatible lead-in to Hostages (10 p.m. on CBS3), a high-stakes thriller starring Dylan McDermott and Toni Collette. She's a cardiothoracic surgeon about to operate on the president (James Naughton).

He's a rogue FBI agent who is holding her family hostage at gunpoint to coerce her into fatally botching the procedure.

The show has a good cast in an exciting pilot that unpacks surprises and adds plot layers in satisfying fashion.

Obviously, the producers must have a long game in place because the president can't need a surgeon every week. Even Dick Cheney didn't have that many heart episodes.

So we'll have to take a wait-and-see attitude toward Hostages to find out how this will work as a series. But it's off to a rattling good start.

It faces stiff competition in The Blacklist (10 p.m. on NBC10), a cloak-and-dagger drama with a piquant twist.

After years of mercenary work for our most dangerous enemies, Raymond Reddington, a notorious turncoat government agent, turns himself in to the FBI.

Played with his customary withering condescension by James Spader, Reddington offers to help take down terrorists, mobsters, hackers, and spies. With one caveat: He will work only with Elizabeth Keen, an FBI newbie (Megan Boone) fresh out of Quantico.

He immediately sets about bartering info for luxuries. Soon he's sitting in a four-star suite, swilling vintage wine while Dean Martin blares on the stereo.

Yes, it's a preposterous premise, and Boone as well as the character she plays are in over their heads, but if NBC is willing to spend money to make this formula work, it could have a hit on its hands.

But like getting secrets out of Reddington, it's not going to come cheap.

 


Television

Mom: 9:30 p.m. Monday on CBS3

Hostages: 10 p.m. Monday on CBS3

The Blacklist: 10 p.m. Monday on NBC10


Contact David Hiltbrand at dhiltbrand@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @daveondemand_TV. Read his blog at www.inquirer.com/daveondemand.

David Hiltbrand Inquirer TV Critic
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