Why doesn’t Nikita work for me?

Hi there…

Every so often, I ponder why I like one television show, but not another. Sometimes I blame it on the actors (“I don’t like So-and-So”)… Sometimes I blame it on the writing… And sometimes there’s just something missing that brings a particular show together.

As another Fall television season approaches, I’m looking at the schedule and wondering what shows I think I’m going to like and what I’m not.

The first of the premieres was Nikita on The CW. Though there is beauty, action, and gadgets – unfortunately it’s not going to be enough to keep my attention.

When La Femme Nikita was released in 1990 from then relatively unknown director Luc Besson, I managed to catch it on video. It blew my mind. It was intense, with action, acting, and the sense that there was much more there than met the eye. Actress Anne Parillaud as Nikita was fierce, intense, and demanded your attention on screen.

We’ll skip the Bridget Fonda movie Point of No Return, which was an American take on the original. It was horrible and we’ll leave it at that.

When the television series popped up in 1997 starring then unknown actress Peta Wilson in the lead role, I was hooked again. Somehow it not only managed to capture the intensity, action, and depth of the original movie, but it expanded the story in a way that never lost itself in the weeds. I lost track of the series in its last few years, but watched from ’97 through ’99 and enjoyed it thoroughly.

That brings us to the 2010 version of Nikita starring Maggie Q as Nikita. She’s stunning and intense, but not quite as imposing a figure as either Parillaud or Peta for me. But it’s when you get past Maggie to the rest of the cast that I started to lose interest.

Shane West in the role of Michael – Nikita’s handler – just doesn’t cut it. Compared to the first TV series where Roy Dupuis plays the character, West simply doesn’t have the dynamic range to play sensitive to scary. West has tried over the last 10 or so years to shake the image of teenager Eli from ABC’s Once and Again with roles like Tom Sawyer in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Dr. Barnett in E.R., but it’s just not working for me.

And Melinda Clarke as Amanda, the woman who transforms beautiful, troubled people into runway models with grace and poise as they assassinate people. Melinda is a great actress who’s been in some very eclectic things over the years, including Soldier of Fortune, Inc., Spawn, and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. But Amanda pales when compared to Alberta Watson’s Madeline from the ’90s series as well. Watson ate up the screen in that role.

There are other characters I could compare to earlier incarnations, but I won’t. In this case, it seems to be a mix of writing and casting that’s making Nikita not work for me. Maybe I’ll check in after a few episodes to see if it’s improved any – but most likely I won’t be watching again unless I’m very bored.

What do you think? Or did you even know that Nikita had started? If so, you’re better at ignoring advertising than I am. I’d seen ads in magazines and on television for weeks before the series premiere.

For more information about Nikita, check out their website here.

–Fitz

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