Alibi V.24 No.45 • Nov 5-11, 2015 

Idiot Box

Secret Agent, Ma’am

“Agent X” on TNT

Why are secret agents, mad scientists and mystery men always know as X? How come we never see an “Agent Z,” a “Dr. Y” or a “Mr. W?” It’s a rhetorical question, of course. We all know that X just looks and sounds cooler. It’s this rote logic that leads us to “Agent X,” TNT’s by-the-books spy-fi action series.

The Agent X in question here is bestubbled stud John Case (Jeff Hephner, “Chicago Fire”). As written by series creator William Blake Herron, he’s a combination of James Bond, Jack Bauer and Jason Bourne. (No small wonder, since Herron co-wrote the original Bourne Identity.) Turns out Case doesn’t work for the government as a whole, but is assigned exclusively for the vice president of the United States. That veep just happens to be the newly elected Natalie Maccabee (’80s screen siren Sharon Stone). Within minutes of receiving the keys to her official residence and meeting her tux-wearing chief steward (Gerald McRaney), she discovers a secret bunker hidden underneath the library outfitted with patriotic treasures and a terrorist-identifying supercomputer. This executive branch Batcave is the hiding place of the “Secret Constitution” that grants the veep her very own secret agent man to be deployed “in times of crisis” (translation: “on a weekly basis”). Hey, that’s at least slightly more logical than the concept for “Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp.”

Stone—no stranger to campy overacting—plays it Hillary Clinton in front of Congress straight here. That’s kind of a shame, given the show’s rather ludicrous premise. McRaney does his best “Alfred the Butler” impression. The longtime TV actor tries to channel some of the gravity he managed in last season’s “”House of Cards,” but ends up feeling more like his old, flippant self from “Simon & Simon.” Hephner, all artfully graying temples and black suit, is a poor man’s Jim Caviezel in “Person of Interest.” At least he gets a lot of action scenes—which are about as good as you’d expect from basic cable.

The set design of “Agent X” is loaded with pyramids and eyeballs and various icons of Freemasonry. But it doesn’t serve much purpose here. Such loaded symbolism would seem to imply some sort of ancient, cabalistic conspiracy. But in reality, that stuff is just there because the show’s creators thought it looked cool in National Treasure. Do we really need a “Secret Constitution” to give the vice president something interesting to do other than break a tie vote in the Senate? The bottom line on the show is simple: Sexy Vice President Sharon Stone sends her pet spy out to shoot evil Russians and rescue various politicians’ kidnapped daughters. Occasionally fun, but a derivative mash-up of everything that came before it, “Agent X’ is basically Batman starring James Bond crossed with “Madam Secretary” on the set of “Veep.” Which means it’s slightly more plausible and slightly less entertaining than a Donald Trump presidency would be.

“Agent X” premieres Sunday, Nov. 8, at 7pm on TNT.