The CW's new "Nikita" feels like a cross between Fox's canceled "Dollhouse" and USA Network's "La Femme Nikita," which aired from 1997-2001 and was based on a French film and American remake of the same name.
Producers of The CW's new series (9 tonight, WPCW) have taken the bones of the "Nikita" story and grafted on a new recruits sub-plot, sort of ideal for young CW audience, but it also makes for a convoluted series pilot that bounces around from one hollow story line to another.
For fans of the old "Nikita" show, the new series introduces Nikita (Maggie Q) as a rogue agent who has escaped Division, a secret American intelligence agency under the command of iron-fisted Percy (Xander Berkley, "24"), who does not seem to answer to anyone in the U.S. government.
Nikita regales an abusive former foster dad with her life story in one exposition-heavy scene, and in another viewers are treated to an explication of her past relationship with Division handler Michael (Shane West, "ER") -- while he holds her at gunpoint, always the best time to take a stroll down memory lane.
The "Dollhouse"-like aspect of the series comes in the form of new Division recruit, Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca), who is enlisted after a botched robbery. She bonds with some of her young peers who are also in training, including Thom (Ashton Holmes, "The Pacific") and Jaden (Tiffany Hines). This aspect of the pilot feels the most calculated and the least involving.
Alex also gets an education from Division high priestess of fashion Amanda (Melinda Clarke, "The O.C."), a character with potential for purring malevolence.
Eventually, the Alex and Nikita stories come together in a somewhat surprising manner, but one that does not bode well for mixing the pair more naturally in the future. In the pilot they're like oil and water -- Nikita, thanks to Maggie Q's intensity, is a more compelling character than Alex -- and that makes "Nikita" somewhat schizophrenic in its initial mission to win over viewers
TV writer Rob Owen: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2582. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook.