Ah, the familiar! We yearn for it. And no one consistently gives us more of the same than network TV. Monday sees the premiere of two new shows - NBC's propulsive thriller Blindspot and the CBS sitcom Life in Pieces - that mine, skillfully, the material that has fueled prime time for years.
Venus . . . with tattoos
Blindspot, which premieres at 10 p.m. Monday on NBC, opens with an arresting scene shown in so many NBC ads in the last three months that the episode feels like a rerun.
A big duffel bag is discovered in Times Square. From it there emerges, like some postmodern riff on Botticelli's The Birth of Venus, a beautiful nude woman - covered from head to toe in tattoos.
Played with gusto, energy, and great empathy by Jaimie Alexander (of the Thor movies and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), our Venus has amnesia.
One of her tattoos spells out the name of FBI agent Kurt Weller (Strike Back action hero Sullivan Stapleton). So he's put in charge of a task force to unravel the tattoo mystery.
Blindspot is the brainchild of Greg Berlanti, who already has three current hits with Arrow, The Flash, and The Mysteries of Laura. Clever, well-plotted, if predictable, it borrows liberally from every spy movie and conspiracy thriller ever made.
The basic structure is very Blacklist: The tattoos represent criminal acts about to take place. Each week, Kurt and Jane - who turn out to possess some serious Jack Bauer talents - run down the case. And the larger mystery? Probably global, conspiratorial, and very 24.
The pilot ends on a mystery that I bet will compel you to tune in next week.
'Modern Family' redux
Life in Pieces, which premieres at 8:30 Monday on CBS, also feels like a rerun - specifically of ABC's Modern Family.
Each episode tells four stories about different members of the Shorts, a zany family of lovable folk headed by the very loving - and zany - duo of John (James Brolin) and Joan (Dianne Wiest) Short.
The couple have three adult children. Heather (Betsy Brandt), who is approaching middle age, has three kids with Tim (Dan Bakkedahl). Almost 30, Greg (Colin Hanks) just had a baby with wife Jen (Zoe Lister Jones), while Matt (Thomas Sadoski), the youngest, is still navigating the dating world.
Life in Pieces has just the right ingredients: a good dose of gross-out jokes (the state of Jen's anatomy after birth is discussed in detail); plenty of sexual misdeeds (Matt and his date have sex in a tiny car when they're kicked out by her roommate, who's also her ex-fiancé); and existential angst (Heather and Tim feel old now that their eldest is ready for college).
This ain't brain science, folks. Just a well-written, nicely performed, and very, very, very familiar sitcom. Don't forget to make lots of popcorn.
Life in Pieces
Premieres at 8:30 p.m. Monday on CBS 3 (KYW-TV).
Premieres at 10 p.m. Monday on NBC 10 (WCAU-TV).