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Saturday, August 9, 2014

'The Blacklist' S1 DVD: Awesome Hybrid of "My Name is Earl," "Hannibal," and "Batman"

Product Details
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment shows great timing in releasing the 22-episode first season of the NBC drama "Hannibal" on DVD and Blu-ray on August 12, 2014. This provides existing fans of this top-rated a good opportunity to relive the S1 events before the September 22, 2014 broadcast premiere on the second season on NBC. This release also gives those of us who lacked room for this top-rated show on our DVRs to discover it.


Folks who know James Spader from the films "Sex, Lies, and Videotape" and "Stargate" and the television series "The Practice"and "Boston Legal" (not to mention his eccentric Robert California on "The Office") already know that he is well cast as socio/psychopath Raymond "Red" Reddington in "Blacklist."

The nonchalant manner in which Red makes small-talk with highly damaged associates and enemies in the agents of chaos circles in which he travels, regularly kills people in quick and painless and a little less quickly but much more painfully, and interacts with the F.B.I. agents with whom he he shares mutual animosity but equally mutual benefits make him one of the more interesting film or television characters since Spader's Graham Dalton in 1989's "Sex."

The "Blacklist" writers do an awesome job in the pilot regarding the "Firefly" dilemma regarding whether to initially provide enough exposition to allow the audience to fully understand the setting and characters or jump right into the action so as not to lose the attention of said viewers. The "Blacklist" solution is to have highly sought after fugitive Reddington quickly surrender to the F.B.I. and have his future colleagues there recap his impressive early years and subsequent two-decade rampage.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of an NBC promo. that includes the aforementioned early scenes offers a strong sense of this well-produced show.


A similar device introduces the viewers to newly transferred F.B.I. profiler Elizabeth Keen, who is the only person with whom Reddington initially will cooperate. The accepted deal is that Reddington gets to roam relatively freely in exchange for helping the F.B.I. task force that is formed to work with him capture criminals that are as bad or worse than him.

This arrangement is reminiscent of fellow NBC drama Hannibal that has Hannibal Lecter of  "The Silence of the Lambs" fame working with the F.B.I. to capture big bads. On a larger level, this theme is a darker version of "characters wanted" USA network series that pair a quirky but talented oddball with a more straight-laced traditional G-man type.

Although Keen is mostly a by-the-book agent, her two male colleagues more fully fit the well-pressed suit and stoic demeanor fed. mold. Fellow agent Donald Ressler largely seems to exist to look hunky and exchange beat-downs with the bad guys. One of the more entertaining scenes has him exchange his dark suit for an aging skate-rat outfit.

Team leader Harold Cooper is even more humorless than Ressler and looks as if he sleeps in his suits. An amusing aspect of him is that his portrayor "Dollhouse" veteran Harry Lennix sounds a great deal like Barack Obama.

Reddington focusing his co-operative effort with this team on the individuals that comprise the titular list is a nicely odd homage to the former must-see NBC sitcom "My Name is Earl" that has the titular redneck striving to rectify the harms from past and present sins on his itemization of those transgressions.

"Blacklist" digs even further back into television history by borrowing the concept from the classic '60s "Batman" series of making most of the targets of the investigations incredibly diabolical and equally warped. Many of these "Blacklist" folks additionally have "Batman" style names, such as the Kingmaker and the Alchemist.

The origin stories of several of these colorful villains contribute to the "Batman" vibe both by explaining why they went bad and how that impacts their individual form of malfeasance. These include a former abused child who inflicts the exact same injuries on those he captures as his victim inflicted on the children or spouse whom they abused.

Like many modern procedurals, "Blacklist" also focuses on the Reddington/Keen relationship. His interest in her being personal is clear early on, but fully discovering both the true nature of his motivation and the mysteries involving Keen's fourth-grade teacher husband and her father requires watching the full season of reveals that the writers artfully share. One spoiler is that, like life itself, everything is connected much more than most of us could ever predict.

Excitement that leads up to all this includes a violent raid on the former mail-sorting facility from which the team covertly operates, two cases in which the evil mastermind of the week coerces innocents into doing some of his dirty work, and a caper inside an embassy.

The DVD extras include special features that provide insight into the series as a whole and the individual episodes.

This profile of "Blacklist" ultimately reveals that it nicely combines elements with proven track records and has enough of an edge to make the "kids" happy without alienating those of us who were around to first see "Sex" in the theater.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Blacklist" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.