It's a good time to be a Beaniac—or whatever fans of ruggedly British actor Sean Bean are calling themselves. The man who famously (four-season-old spoiler alert!) lost his head on "Game of Thrones" owns TNT's spy drama "Legends" (8 p.m. Aug. 13, TNT; 2.5 stars out of 4)
Bean likely will not suffer the same fate on his new show. He's nearly the only reason to watch this retread mashup of team-based crime/spy shows and the "Bourne" films.
Bean plays Martin Odum, an agent for the FBI's Deep Cover Operations unit who gets completely lost in his "legends"—the invented personalities he adopts for operations. In the premiere, he slips back into the stuttering legend called Lincoln Dittman while meeting with his FBI team.
But, according to DCO Director Nelson Gates (Steve Harris), Martin is the best at his job. That's why Nelson's pairing him with his top team leader, Crystal McGuire (Ali Larter). Crystal and Martin once had a fling—of course—and don't see eye-to-eye on a lot of issues, including Martin's reckless "cowboy" ways in the field.
"Veronica Mars" alum Tina Majorino plays Maggie Harris, the tech-savvy team member who can whip up a legend on the Internet in no time flat. "24" fans will recognize her as Martin's Chloe O'Brian—she's just friendlier.
"Legends" is based on Robert Littell's book and comes to us from "24" and "Homeland" producer Howard Gordon (and screenwriters Jeffrey Nachmanoff and Mark Bomback). But it's not Gordon's best work. Despite Bean's amazing transformations and quality work from the strong supporting cast, the writing often feels lazy. I don't doubt Crystal's ability to go undercover as a men's club dancer, but I bet she doesn't just happen to pack stripper clothes in her purse every day.
Gordon and Co. also seem to be giving "Legends" a lame case-of-the-week structure over a much more intriguing long-term story about Martin's real identity.
"You don't know where your life begins and your legend ends," a mysterious stalker tells Martin in the premiere. "There is no Martin Odum."
Episode 2 picks up considerably by fleshing out that serialized plot and adding Morris Chestnut as nosy FBI Agent Tony Rice, who begins a rogue investigation of Martin.
These improvements suggest that, over time, "Legends" may grow a bit more legendary.
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