Since its stellar success in 24Kiefer Sutherland has pushed for audience acceptance at other shows.
While Touch, the First Lady and (Quibi series) The fugitive it had single seasons, at least Designated Survivor got to three.
Now he’s back in an action role as private espionage agent John Weir Rabbit holeon Paramount+.
Rather than start with explosions and presidential assassinations, Rabbit hole takes its time to establish its protagonist’s story with flashbacks of a boy whose father was knee-deep in espionage or paranoid about spies – which ultimately led to his parents’ separation and father’s death.
It all amounts to an adult John constantly looking over his shoulder in the present, as he forges a successful career as a go-to private agent.
One of those on his case is homosexual FBI agent Madi (Enid Graham) who follows him through the city streets waiting for him to screw up whatever surreptitious project he’s undertaking.
“I know you think you’re Robin Hood but you’re not,” she warns him.
Helping John out are his small crew of merry men and women (including Australian actress Jorja Cadence) plotting in a warehouse behind screens that aren’t CTU, for those of you who remember.
John is also estranged from his own wife and is happy to hang out with casual bar patrons like Hailey (Meta Golding), if convinced they are a plant secretly hired to destroy him. ‘Trust no one’ as Fox Mulder might suggest…?
The opening episode goes on until John is finally tasked with a mission (thank god) to set a senior Treasury official with a corporate CEO, but it’s unclear who is behind this scheme. However, the cat-and-mouse shot, done with mechanical precision like a scene from Gym shoes, is very funny. If only he could invest in more of this stock.
In episode two, when John reconnects with his romance Hailey, their pairing is reaching a sexual tension/comedy twist that never quite comes to pass.
Action, flashbacks, comedic touches – it all makes for a rather uneven dramatic offering.
Yes, screenwriters John Requa and Glenn Ficarra drop twists so extreme they feel like U-writing whiteboard ideas to consciously invert the audience…instead of being organically character-driven. There’s also a tendency for the characters to talk to each other, rather than to each other, and by my reckoning John’s flashbacks as a boy are about 10 years too young to match Kiefer as an adult.
Sutherland tense and whispered works casually with the material, hell he probably knows the genre better than anyone around him and while Rabbit hole has its moments, it’s hard to ignore the feeling that I’d much rather Jack Bauer than John Weir on my screen.
Rabbit Hole premieres Monday on Paramount+. (Episode 1 9:15pm tonight on 10).