09/25/2013 11:17 am ET Updated Nov 25, 2013

On TV, Men Have Conviction And Women Have Issues


At a glance, Fox's "Sleepy Hollow" and NBC's "The Blacklist" could not be more dissimilar. The first, loosely based on the Washington Irving story, is about a time-traveling soldier/gentleman scholar from the Revolutionary War who finds himself alive in the 21st century chasing down all Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and however many dark minions it takes to get the show to syndication. A supernatural scavenger hunt with "X-Files" aspirations, "Hollow" brims with eery CGI and complicated, albeit occasionally comic, mythology. "The Blacklist" is "Silence of the Lambs" meets "The Rock," the story of a master international criminal who embroils a rookie FBI agent in his mysterious personal vendetta: a manhunt for the world's slickest crooks. The fast-paced thriller is all tricked out with high-tech hardware and badass lingo spoken by officious feds barreling through black sites and well-placed lens flares.

"Sleepy Hollow's" Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) is a wiry, know-it-all Brit with wild eyes and a prickly demeanor. (Comparisons to "Elementary's" persnickety Sherlock Holmes are inevitable.) "The Blacklist's" Raymond "Red" Reddington (James Spader) is pompous in a far more classic way, preferring to parcel out advice and unsolicited directives from a position of immoral superiority. Both characters are a joy to watch, but it is their partners, in-over-their-heads female law enforcement agents, who provide the emotional engines for both adventures. Not only are these women the stand-ins for the audience, but it's the pursuit of their own personal demons that propel these stories forward as much as the pursuit of machine gun-wielding kidnappers and actual demons. But are these female characters built from back story or just carrying the typical baggage?

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