Ellen Gray: The CW resurrects 'Nikita' for another generation

Maggie Q stars as the heroine in the new show.
Maggie Q stars as the heroine in the new show.
Posted: September 09, 2010

NIKITA. 9 tonight, Channel 57.

HERE'S AN idea for carving a chunk out of the federal deficit: Stop funding agencies that take extremely attractive young people off Death Row to train them as assassins.

Because that kind of thing has to be hugely expensive.

And that's even before the draftees escape and go all "Dollhouse" on their handlers, using their training against the very people who made them such superb killers in the first place.

That's where we find the title character of the CW's "Nikita" tonight in the latest incarnation of the heroine of the 20-year-old French film - yes, all the bad government spending ideas really do start in France - that people in the CW's target audience may or may not remember as "La Femme Nikita."

Or, perhaps, as the woman Bridget Fonda played in the 1993 U.S. version, "Point of No Return."

Or better yet from the often hypnotic 1997-2001 USA Network series starring Peta Wilson as the reluctant hit woman.

Maggie Q ("Live Free or Die Hard") is the newest Nikita, a vengeance-minded fighting machine determined to make sure the agency known only as "The Division" gets out of the coerced-assassins business. The man whose job it is to bring her down is named Michael (Shane West) and he's the guy who trained her, though he appears hardly old enough to have housebroken a puppy.

Maggie Q sounds so much cooler than Maggie Quigley, just as McG - who's one of the executive producers - sounds cooler than Joseph McGinty Nichol.

But, as usual, I digress.

Truth is, I'm not exactly sure why "Nikita" is being remade, or reimagined, or re-whatever

we're calling a failure of imagination this week, other than the fact that, as another of the show's executive producers, Craig Silverstein, told reporters in July, "Warner Bros. had that title."

(This appears to be the very same creative spark behind CBS' revisiting of "Hawaii Five-0.")

"My first thought was that I love 'Nikita.' I love all those, you know, iterations of it," Silverstein said. "My second thought was it's been done. So I took it upon myself to find a way - could it be done fresh? Could we have a take where you didn't know how this story was going to end?"

In a sense, he's succeeded. I can't say how "Nikita" is going to end, or even how it's going to perform on the CW, where it's been strategically placed behind the network's most popular scripted series, "Vampire Diaries," which returns for a second season at 8 tonight.

What I can say is that despite my admiration for an energetic performance by Q (between "Hellcats" and "Nikita," the CW seems determined to show its new stars getting more of a workout than you'll see on, say, "Gossip Girl"), and a lingering fondness for West that goes all the way back to "Once and Again," there was nothing in tonight's episode that made me care enough about any of these characters to spend a single unpaid minute with them.

'My Boys,' the finale?

There are, thank goodness, plenty of TV characters I don't ask to be paid to watch.

Too many of them this summer have been crowding the same few nights, which could explain why I haven't spent nearly enough time hanging out with TBS' "My Boys," which wraps up its fourth (and possibly final) season in back-to-back episodes at 10 and 10:30 p.m. Sunday, just about the time I'd usually be watching AMC's "Mad Men."

Joel Murray, whose "Mad Men" character, Freddy, resurfaced recently, guest-stars in both "My Boys" episodes as the owner of Crowley's, the bar that PJ (Jordana Spiro) and her friends have long frequented, but maybe not for much longer, while Rachael Harris plays Marcia, the woman Mike (Jamie Kaler) could finally be willing to grow up - a little - to deserve.

Oh, and Jay Tarses (who created "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd") is back as sports columnist Jack Briscoe, who'd like to pass his spot on the front page off to PJ, but thinks she needs to be "tweeting and blogging - and other verbs that didn't exist five years ago."

So change is in the air, and though Sunday's finale concludes with what could be construed as an actual happy ending, there's enough left for me to hope this isn't the last we'll see of "My Boys."

The Bard on Blu-ray

"Slings & Arrows," the TV series about a Shakespearean theater festival that might just be the best thing to come out of Canada since The Kids in the Hall (whose Mark McKinney co-created and co-starred in the three-season show), comes to Blu-ray Oct. 26 in "Slings & Arrows: The Complete Collection." *

Send e-mail to graye@phillynews.com.

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