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TV PREVIEWS: THE NEW SEASON

New CW shows 'Nikita' and 'Hellcats' cutthroat without the edge

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CW's new series follows an ex-assassin on a mission to take down the very people who trained her to kill - and helped murder her fiance. "Nikita" airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET.

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By Hank Stuever
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Even with its ample servings of va-va-boom, a lot of edgy potential is wasted in "Nikita," the CW's retinkering of the much-tinkered-with story of the sexy assassin who is betrayed and hunted by "the Division," the top-secret government agency that trained her.

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Actress Maggie Q, the jujitsu darling of the martial-arts action pack, stars in this latest Nikiquel. (Yes, this Nikita is the same character as that other Nikita, as in la femme . . . , going back 20 years to Luc Besson's original French thriller and then the American remake that starred Bridget Fonda, and then on to -- who knew? -- a Canadian TV series.)

This "Nikita," which premieres Thursday night, bears the imprimatur of big-budget movie director McG, who directed "Terminator: Salvation," "Charlie's Angels" and exec-produced NBC's "Chuck." I foresee a day when no one in Hollywood has an actual last name.

As the Pantene-haired heroine, Q is all smolder and muscle and seems firmly in control of the show's momentum. Befitting the McG oeuvre, "Nikita" takes too seriously its own steeliness and, therefore, becomes too laughably slick. In a flashback to a hot tub at a tropical hotel, Nikita twists a crime lord's neck 360 degrees, eludes a spray of gunfire by wielding a deck chair, and kills a few more thugs, while wearing a bikini that doesn't slip a millimeter. Now that I have your attention . . .

Aside from hot tub fun, Nikita's memories of being a secret assassin are bad. She learned the hard way that the Division operates with no federal oversight and regarded her as dispensable. They killed her fiance and now they want to kill her. She is just too dangerous. Nikita wants revenge, and so she has come out of hiding to wage an elaborately designed attack on the Division, foiling their assassination attempts and -- har-har -- blowing up a Heritage Foundation cocktail party in Washington.

This new "Nikita" has more to offer than just Nikita -- it also has Nikita Babies. The Division is still recruiting agents the way they got Nikita: They kidnap young criminals, stage their deaths, erase their identities, and reprogram and train them at a super-secret underground school in . . . did Shane West (as the Division's top lieutenant) just say Michigan?

This is where Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca) -- a Ukrainian immigrant who escaped the sex trade to become a bank robber -- wakes up after a botched heist. The Division now owns Alex and her future. Between martial arts class and cafeteria hazing, she must report for fashion and etiquette tutelage with Amanda (Melinda Clarke), the resident Miss Manners.

It also means there's a Mean Girl (Tiffany Hines) in Alex's class, who glowers at her menacingly, trash-talks her a bit, and then offers this bit of hard truth:

"They gonna teach you to kill with a gun. They gonna teach you to kill witch'yer nails. They gonna tell you who to kill and when to kill 'em. And if you don't deliver, they gonna kill you."

Welcome to college, girlfriend!

'Hellcats'

Things aren't any less cutthroat at "Lancer University," a big football college in Memphis. Here, spunky and cynical law student Marti Perkins (Alyson Michalka), who sports Shakira's abs and hairdo, has discovered that she's lost her child-of-a-campus-waitress scholarship in a budget cut.

There's only one thing left to do, then. (Really, there's only one?) She must try out for the open slot on the Lancer Hellcats cheerleading squad. That's the premise of "Hellcats," which debuts Wednesday night, also on the CW. Pick any antonym for "glee" and this show defines it. It is mean-spirited, painfully dumb and badly acted.


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