Sean Bean loses himself in a character.
Martin Odum (Sean Bean) is a CIA agent who transforms himself into a different person for each undercover job. For example, he goes to great lengths to style himself as a creepy outsider to infiltrate a domestic terrorist group, masking his British accent with a stutter. Legends keeps you on the edge of your seat as Martin tries not to blow his cover under tremendous pressure (Wednesday, 8 p.m., TNT).
That would be enough of an accomplishment for a new series, but Legends adds an intriguing twist. Martin is a psychological wreck who has trouble working with his colleagues and his supervisor, Crystal (Ali Larter). Apparently, his unstable personality is what allows him to lose himself in a character. In fact, he's so unstable that we're not surprised when a mysterious figure accosts Martin and suggests he's not who he thinks he is. Suddenly the key question isn't "How will Martin stop that bomb from going off?" It is, more elementally, "Who is Martin?"
So far, the series' only lapse is having Crystal go undercover as a stripper. I hope Legends gets around to asking the question "Who is Crystal?" -- and it would be nice if the answer were something more than just "a sex object."
Wicked Tuna: North vs. South
Sunday, 9 pm (National Geographic Channel)
I'm a fan of the Wicked Tuna reality series, in which Gloucester fishing boats go head-to-head to catch invaluable bluefin tuna one by one. So you can bet I'm excited by this spinoff, in which our New England heroes sail to North Carolina's Outer Banks to challenge Southern tuna fishermen on their own turf.
The Southerners are more godly than the New Englanders, praying for divine help in catching the fish. "The three things I hold dear are God, family and fishing," drawls a Southern captain named Britton.
The fishing techniques are different in the Outer Banks, but the caveman behavior is much the same. The fishermen taunt their rivals, scream at the fish, and howl with joy when they get a bite. There's no shortage of catches in the first episode, so everybody's happy.
Well, everybody except the tuna. Clearly, they need to pray a lot harder.
Tuesday, 9 pm (Syfy)
Here's a creative reality concept: a showdown between pairs of up-and-coming magicians. Each week, Wizard Wars gives the teams an assortment of ordinary objects to build into a routine. The contestants (who don't know each other) have a limited amount of time to create the magic before performing for a panel of judges, which includes pros like Penn & Teller. In the pilot, it's fun to watch the talented wannabes make things vanish while developing rapport with the audience and each other.
Despite the word "Wars" in the title, the show is perfectly amiable. The host promises "no camera tricks," so I was duly amazed at the miracles the contestants worked with Spam and super-soakers.
I hope Wizard Wars itself doesn't vanish.
Wednesday, 9 pm (A&E)
This reality series was a hit when it premiered earlier in the year, and God knows why. Singer Donnie Wahlberg and actor Mark Wahlberg hang out with brother Paul, who runs the restaurant Wahlburgers in their native Boston -- and that's about it for plot. In season two, Paul gets into a fantasy football league, and Mark helps a friend with dental problems. I mean, we all have dental problems of our own, right? Why spend a half-hour looking at someone else's X-rays?
I'm not saying I don't watch Wahlburgers. I'm merely trying to figure out its appeal. Is it redemptive to see life's minutiae elevated to the level of performative spectacle? Or is our obsession with the Wahlbergs simply an act of displacement -- in other words, a sublimation of our fear of the void?
Okay, enough philosophical questions. Let's see how the dental work turned out.
Wednesday, 9 pm (FX)
In season two, a detective from the U.S. side of the border (Diane Kruger) and her Mexican counterpart (Demian Bichir) continue to delve into the drug war and its attendant corruption. I don't understand why critics like this series, other than my sneaking suspicion that critics are masochists. The Bridge earns their affection in the now-standard way: putting an arty gloss on a grimly boring plot while throwing in enough torture to make them feel like something significant is happening.
This week's episode is a bust in terms of storytelling, but it does showcase a character gagged, flayed and duct-taped to a chair. "Help me, please," he moans.
Funny, I was moaning the exact same thing.