On "Agent X," Sharon Stone plays Natalie Maccabee, the newly inaugurated Vice President of the United States, who learns that she is in charge of a secret agent who takes on missions that are too sensitive for the FBI and the CIA while giving POTUS plausible deniability. It's Stone's first weekly TV role since 1983 and she's the biggest reason to watch but her screen time shrinks with every episode. What's left is an average spy show.
In the mythology of the series, the answer to why the position of vice president has limited power and responsibilities is because the founding fathers, in the 'real' version of the constitution, stipulated that the VP is actually the boss of a secret spy. John Case (Jeff Hephner), the current incarnation of the agent of unknown identity works for Stone who controls his missions from a hidden room in the vice president's residence. It's a patriotic version of the bat cave (accessed by a skeleton key inserted into the fireplace that opens a hidden door), where her steward Malcolm Millar (Gerald McRaney) playing a version of Alfred the Butler, helps her guide Case through the task.
The series doesn't break new ground or even try very hard to disguise the old ground it's treading on. Russians are the enemies in the first two episodes and the spy Case fights is named Olga, played by Olga Fonda ("The Vampire Diaries"). She is--wait for it--beautiful, sexy and dangerous. They share flirty repartee as they move from one action scene to the next. If you're going to rehash every tired spy cliché, it's probably best not to do it all in one episode.
Hephner, who did some solid work on the late, great series "Boss" has little to do in this James Bond-lite role and it shows. He fights and smiles and has a few one-liners that sometimes land. Olga tells him that he's not like the other super agents because he has a heart. If only that were true but it actually makes him exactly like most super agents, at least the TV kind.
McRaney has a similar problem in that his character is one-dimensional, making it difficult for him to take it anywhere new. He is an actor who usually brings a certain level of gravitas to the roles he plays but here his effort is wasted on a poor version of Batman's manservant.
All this leaves us with Stone. She might be able to salvage the show if she was actually a significant part of each episode. As it stands, she appears in a few 'bat cave' scenes, some flashbacks to a mysterious car accident that kills her husband and one or two blink and you miss them situation room set-ups with the president (John Shea). In interviews, Stone has said she would like her character to encourage American viewers to embrace women in positions of political power. A good start would be to show that character in her politically powerful position for most of an episode.
"Agent X" is on Sundays at 9 p.m. EDT on TNT.
Melissa Crawley is the author of "Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television's 'The West Wing.'" She has a Ph.D. in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.