Ultimately, I took a perverse pleasure in watching “Agent X” because it is so bad. It’s meant to be a straight-ahead action drama, but it plays like a spoof, from the absurd premise to the cheap sets and bad acting. What can I say? After bristling at the poor quality, I settled for camp-watching the show, and I had a few “Sharknado”-like laughs.
Sharon Stone plays Vice President Natalie Maccabee — yes, that’s what I said — in the TNT series, which premieres with two episodes on Sunday at 9 p.m. She is profoundly miscast, as she strains for the gravitas and extraordinary wisdom of, say, President Bartlett from “The West Wing.” She uses her thick black fashion glasses to convey “serious person who could really be sitting in a war room,” but it only reinforces her awkwardness. What does an important official do with her hands? Does she play with her pearls? How does she hold her head? You can feel Stone working to fit into the milieu. She looks a tad like Madonna, and her acting does, too.
As the new second in command, she learns from Gerald McRaney’s chief steward Malcolm that there is a secret section of the Constitution that allows her to utilize a black ops agent in times of “dire peril.” The president — played by John Shea — knows nothing about this power, which Malcolm explains to Natalie in a secret room behind a fireplace that is very “Munsters” and very munster cheesy. Again, if “Agent X” were a spoof, that secret room and its sliding-bookcase door would be strokes of brilliance; here, they’re just preposterous. Malcolm explains the vice president’s power as “the greatest secret in the history of our country.”
Maccabee’s handsome black ops agent is John Case (Jeff Hephner), who is meant to bring a James Bond vibe to the show. Both Bond and Case are superconfident and both have one-syllable first and last names. When Stone lays eyes on him, she removes her glasses to convey, “Oh my, this is all so real,” and the intrigue begins immediately. There’s the kidnapping of the daughter of FBI Director Stanton (Jamey Sheridan), there’s a Russian agent in play named — what else? — Olga, and there are stolen missiles.
You won’t care, as the shoot-outs persist, the computer systems enable impossible tasks, Olga and Case flirt, and the music tries to build tension despite the lack thereof. You won’t care, because either you’ll have changed the channel to something better or you’ll be laughing so hard.
Starring Sharon Stone, Jeff Hephner, John Shea, Olga Fonda, Gerald McRaney, Jamey Sheridan
On TNT. Premieres Sunday night with two episodes, 9-11 p.m.Matthew Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.