Jonathan Storm: CW's martial-arts show is fun if familiar

Maggie Q - nee Quigley - stars in "Nikita," performing all her own stunts. The show borrows many of its elements but still is fun.
Maggie Q - nee Quigley - stars in "Nikita," performing all her own stunts. The show borrows many of its elements but still is fun.
Posted: September 09, 2010

Here's something you haven't seen before on TV: a sexy Asian American martial-arts star as the lead in a series. It's Nikita, and it premieres Thursday at 9 p.m. on CW57.

Apparently nervous about being too innovative, the network places its prize property in a pile of things you have seen before.

She's fighting against the shadowy outfit that stole her soul and impressed her into service doing bloody deeds (Dollhouse).

Provocatively attired, she pulls off explosive capers in swank surroundings, and people die like flies (Alias).

She threatens captives with huge hypodermics and much mayhem, as the urgent music pounds (24).

The urgent music pounds most of the rest of the time, too, but never so urgently as when the big black SUVs arrive on the scene, each disgorging many men in serious shades and loose black jackets, most of them leather, with huge guns (movies and TV shows too numerous to mention).

The mean men are in search of the mutinous Nikita, and at one point, they blast away at her with about a billion bullets, and it looks like the show is over before it has even started. But we know that's not going to happen.

Just as we know that her erstwhile boss, played perfectly with an authority just beneath the threshold of apoplexy by Xander Berkeley, is dead wrong when he declares:

"For the record, I'm not gonna let a piece of street trash slow down this operation, not for one minute. All operations are 'Go,' including Black Arrow."

Nikita isn't street trash, not after her lengthy brainwashing and charm-school indoctrination by the insidious Division, but her show is trashy and fun. "Operation Black Arrow"? Give me a break.

You've seen Berkeley a million times and might remember him as George Mason, Jack Bauer's boss in Season 1 of 24 and the poor man who, suffering from plutonium poisoning in Season 2, crashes his plane and detonates the nuclear bomb safely in the Mojave Desert while Jack hides nearby behind a rock - this after his injured daughter has escaped the jaws of a marauding cougar only to find herself in the lair of a psycho pervert.

You might remember that because Nikita is aimed directly at 24 fans.

Not as ambitious nor as entertaining, it is just as decidedly unbelievable yet diverting.

Division was a pretty crummy place in 24, but nowhere near as bad as it is here, a secret government outfit controlled not by bumbling bureaucrats and our duly elected officials, but by the worst elements trying to undermine our freedoms and get all our money.

First on the list: oil companies.

Nikita's out to reveal everything to the world and clean up the mess.

Maggie Q is the star, and she changed her name not so she'd fit in with action specialist McG, who's one of the executive producers here, but because people in Asia, where she found stardom as a protege of Jackie Chan, couldn't pronounce her real name, Margaret Quigley. (Plus what kind of name is that for a karate, kung fu, muay thai, judo, tae kwon do, whirlwind?)

Fun fact: McG's real name is Joseph McGinty Nichol, so this is actually an Irish show, even if Q's mom is Vietnamese.

Q's from Hawaii and she was on brief trip to Asia to pick up some modeling money when she came to Chan's attention, and a star was born. Her movies include such classics as Naked Weapon, Rice Rhapsody, and Balls of Fury.

She can't run like Jennifer Garner, whose fleet-footed escapes were a major reason to watch Alias, but Q's still stunning as she does all her own stunts, not the least of which is bringing a viable action show to the CW, to go with all those supposed teenagers contemplating their navels and other body parts.


Jonathan Storm:

Television

Nikita

Premieres 9 p.m. Thursday on CW57.


Contact television critic Jonathan Storm at 215-854-5618 or jstorm@phillynews.com. Read

his blog, "Eye of the Storm,"

at www.philly.com/philly/blogs/storm.

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