THE SHOW "Rubicon"
WHAT IT'S ABOUT In direct homage to the 1975 Robert Redford espionage thriller, "Three Days of the Condor," an exceedingly bright analyst named Will Travers (James Badge Dale, "The Pacific") labors away in a Manhattan "think tank" allied with the CIA, when one bright day . . . he comes upon a clue. It's buried in several newspaper crossword puzzles. Because Travers is a human Google, he grasps the connections of something, but exactly what?
Unlike "Three Days," no Max von Sydow-look-alike assassin turns up at the think- tank offices, but there is a wry inside touch when Travers declines to go out to lunch with a colleague. (In "Three Days," when Redford's character goes out to lunch, all of his colleagues are killed.)
MY SAY "Rubicon" - referring to both the famous Roman river and the point of no return - is an important new AMC show that actually had a stealth premiere last Sunday and will run on Hulu.com and other websites through July. Official launch date is Aug. 1. AMC appears to be appropriating a classic movie and even Broadway gambit: Get the series sampled before the chattering classes (critics) weigh in. There's a nice democratic impulse in the gesture - let everyone make up their minds at the same time, or at their leisure.
But there's risk, too. What if everyone hates the show months before launch? Yes, AMC has crossed its own Rubicon as well. The show's creator, Jason Horwitch, departed some months ago, and was replaced by Henry Bromell, a former executive producer of "Homicide: Life on the Street." Former "Sopranos" director Allen Coulter is here as well. AMC has the A-team on the case, but the turnover indicates "creative differences" - rarely a good sign. Never- theless, AMC, which currently has the two best series on TV in "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad," knows those classics will end sooner than later. New shows are needed, and the bar has been set exceedingly high.
BOTTOM LINE Let's withhold judgment until Aug. 1, when the pilot and second episode air. Based on the "sneak peek," "Rubicon" has nothing to worry about.