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TV Picks: 'S.H.I.E.L.D.,' 'Rosemary's Baby,' 'Penny Dreadful'

"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D," "The Blacklist" are among critic Mary McNamara's TV picks
Even in its weakest episodes "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D" is like nothing else on television.

"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.": In terms of genre-bending, few shows have been so fascinating to watch this season. Never before has a series been conceived as the connective tissue of a film franchise, and not just any film franchise -- a star-studded, multimillion-dollar-grossing franchise.

Starting with the obvious disadvantage of not being able to afford Robert Downey Jr. or Scarlett Johansson, "S.H.I.E.L.D." wisely resurrected the scene-stealing Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) and assembled its own team of skilled but not super-powered forces.

In early episodes, it often seemed to be treading water as a comic-book procedural with only a loose relationship to the films. An uber-plot, involving an arch nemesis called the clairvoyant, turned up the heat a bit. Then "Captain America: Winter Soldier" premiered and all became clear -- S.H.I.E.L.D. was riddled with traitors. 

The show kicked into high gear, providing an on-the-ground look at all the film glossed over and forcing Coulson and his team to eye each other suspiciously until it was revealed that the strong and silent Grant (Brett Dalton) was the scorpion in their midst.

But is he really? The season finale should answer that question as well as what form this ever-morphing show will take next season, with S.H.I.E.L.D. now compromised to the point that the good guys are forced to be vigilantes. That should up the stakes and strengthen the bonds between those left. The more interesting question, though, is how will the show continue to relate to, or perhaps even set up, the next big Marvel movie. Even in its weakest episodes "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." is like nothing else on television. ABC, Tuesday, 8 p.m.

"The Blacklist": Another season finale that will answer some big questions: Will Red (James Spader) be undone by whatever force is attempting to undo him? More important, will he regain Lizzy's trust. (Out on a limb with "no" and "yes.") NBC, Monday, 10 p.m.

"Rosemary's Baby": Any excuse to go to Paris, I say. That's the setting for this two-part, four-hour remake of Roman Polanski's classic film starring Zoe Saldana as the betrayed and satanically beleaguered Rosemary, here the wife of a self-absorbed writer on a year-long teaching gig at the Sorbonne. Even in the City of Light, hubby is unsatisfied, but he's quickly enthralled by an older, more sophisticated couple (Jason Isaacs and Carole Bouquet), who soon take the young couple under their wing. And, more important, into their fabulous empty flat in a gargoyle-appointed building called the Chimera. Subtle this version is not, with Isaacs in fine Malfoy form and pirate earring and Bouquet's Margaux showering Rosemary with love, designer clothing and, eventually, old family recipes for increased fertility and devil-baby maintenance. 

We all know where it's going, of course, and as if knowing that there's no topping the original, screenwriters Scott Abbott and James Wong and director Agnieszka Holland don't even really try, content instead to make Son of Satan-lite. Still, Saldana is engaging and rocks a pixie cut almost as well as Mia Farrow. The story may be familiar, but it moves well, flecked with "Omen"-like horror. And, when all else fails, there's always Paris. Sunday, NBC, 9 p.m.

"Penny Dreadful": "They did the mash, they did the monster mash." It's tough not to bring the song to mind (where it will rattle endlessly for days) while watching Showtime's "Penny Dreadful," which takes any character that could even vaguely be considered Victorian gothic, rolls that into a ball and throws it against the wall, where it explodes with blood and guts and lots of stand-up sex featuring women in corsets.

Beginning unforgivably with the horrific murder of a woman and her young daughter, "Penny Dreadful" introduces Timothy Dalton and Eva Green star as a pair of spiritualist detectives tracking down a monster that bears some similarities to a vampire. Eventually aiding them (sort of) in this quest is Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett), an American gunslinger (or, for "Dracula" scholars, the piece's Quincy Morris); Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway), an early forensic specialist as well as, you know; sassy sex worker Brona Croft (Billie Piper); and uber sensualist Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney).

Together they tromp through the urine-soaked streets of London town, where Jack the Ripper still holds sway, unearthing all manner of death and destruction. Mr. Holmes and Watson are not in view, though Green's Vanessa Ives spouts observation-based deductions with the best of them. The first two hours are terribly overwrought; still it's worth hanging out to see what ol' Drac looks like in this one. Showtime, Sundays, 10 p.m.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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