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Friday, January 3, 2014

PILOT REVIEW: The Assets

THE ASSETS

Starring: Jodie Whittaker, Paul Rhys, Harriet Walter, Ralph Brown, Stuart Milligan, Christina Cole, Julian Ovenden, Lex Shrapnel, Amelia Clarkson, Trystan Gravelle, Nicholas Woodeson

Based on the Book Men of Treason by Sandra Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille
Written by Drew Chapman, Directed by Jeff T. Thomas

The Assets is a new limited series from ABC based on real-life events during the Cold War in the 1980s. It is centered on CIA officers Sandy Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille (Jodie Whittaker and Harriet Walter) who work together to bring down a spy within their ranks, Aldrich Ames (Paul Rhys). They are tipped off to a problem when CIA assets begin disappearing rapidly.

THE GOOD: I love shows with a historical setting and the eerie and intense feeling of the Cold War 1980s was fun. The world of the CIA, espionage, the KGB, etc is not something I know much about. Paul Rhys was good as the sneaky Ames while the journey of the case officer before making the drop was interesting to watch. In a show like this, it is kind of interesting to know what happens in the end (Ames getting caught for espionage) because it allows the viewer to see the pieces coming together more than if it was an unknown ending. Because I know what is going to happen, I was watching Ames in every scene he was in to see if I could pick up on clues.

THE BAD: I wasn't completely sold on Jodie Whittaker's performance as Sandra Grimes. I wanted her to be a little more straight forward and focused and a little less vulnerable to emotion. I also feel like the scenes from her house are unnecessary for a show like this. Maybe if this was going to be a long-term series, it would be necessary but I don't feel like her home life maters for an eight part limited series and it just seems like a lame attempt to "humanize" Grimes.

BOTTOM LINE: I love the idea of limited series with a set ending. I think networks need to do more of them. Since The Assets bombed in the ratings, I'm sure ABC won't be tempted to extend it. But the problem with limited series in general is the networks get greedy if the show is a hit (see Under the Dome on CBS). If networks are going to commit to limited series, they need to let them be just that: with a set start and finish. Thanks to the ratings for The Assets, it will be that (if it goes that long) but that's just a word of caution for future limited series. I will stick with The Assets partly because I know it's only going to be eight weeks.

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