TV review / 'XIII': Can you say ridiculous?

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Sort of a "Bourne Identity" for the small screen, "XIII" (9 p.m. Friday, Reelz Channel) follows a former U.S. secret operative who has been stripped of his identity in a TV series that's been stripped of all common sense.

Stuart Townsend ("Queen of the Damned") stars as XIII, known only by the Roman numeral tattoo near his left collarbone. He has flashes of memories but can't seem to put it all together. Or something.

"XIII" is awash in jump cuts and murky storytelling. Viewers may be as confused as XIII.


When: 9 p.m. Friday, ReelzChannel.

Starring: Stuart Townsend, above, and Aisha Tyler.

The series begins with XIII in a CIA rendition camp in Eastern Europe where he's tortured seemingly to death. It's just the first of two times in the premiere that XIII's adversaries take him for dead.

It turns out XIII was sent to the CIA black site because it's believed by top government officials that he participated in "a covert operation so dark no one in Washington knows its real purpose," according to a presidential adviser, which makes you wonder who actually gave the operation a green light if it wasn't anyone in Washington.

Oh yes, in addition to the CIA action, there's political messiness in XIII's past. He may have been freed from that CIA black site by a former president whose misdeeds in office were so grave -- he might have had his politician sister assassinated -- that the current president fears for the underpinnings of the Republic if they should become public.

XIII wants to meet the president so he takes what's described as "a self-guided White House tour," a laughable concept until you understand that "XIII" is a co-production involving French and Canadian companies. (The show is based on a graphic novel by Jean Van Hamme.)

XIII wanders away from his White House tour and runs into an old flame, government agent Jones (Aisha Tyler, "The Talk"), who takes him for a meeting with the President -- because that would really happen.

As if the silliness of the plot didn't give viewers permission to laugh, the presence of Ms. Tyler, best known for comedies like FX's "Archer," should do the trick. It's a wonder she manages to keep a straight face through all the ridiculous scenarios in this preposterous action-drama.


First Published June 24, 2012 12:00 AM


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