So several months back I decided to try one that kept coming up in my recommended queue: Nikita.
(In a nutshell, Nikita is a former secret agent for a corrupt "black ops" division of the U.S. government. She escaped, and is now working to bring that organization down.)
I was afraid the show was going to be all busty bubbleheads prancing around in G-strings and gun harnesses - and frankly some of the promotional photos kind of reinforce that impression - but I'm happy to report that Nikita has SO much more depth than that - and nary a G-string in site. In fact, after watching the first two seasons and now starting on the third, I'm not sure I can say enough good things about this show - but I'm about to try. :)
First and foremost, I love Nikita for the characters. The writers could have made Nikita just another revenge-driven bombshell, but instead they fleshed out a woman who is driven not so much by revenge as by a strong sense of justice and concern for others. She cares. She cries. And - oh yes - she kicks some SERIOUS booty. If you were a fan of Alias back in the day - particularly in the first few seasons when it was still amazing - then you're pretty much guaranteed to love this show. (And can I just say how much I love it that Nikita wears realistic footwear on missions? And when she DOES wear heels, she'll kick them off to run? [Yeah, I'm looking at you, Kate Beckett on Castle.])
Nikita is the main focus of the show, of course, but in the first season she also has a younger female partner, Alex. (Pictured above.) Again, the character writing here goes above and beyond, as these two women start out with almost a mother/daughter dynamic, but then grow to respect each other more and more as equals. Plus all the women on this show (of which there are several key players) consistently pass the Bechdel test with flying colors.
The third main character is Micheal:
He works for the bad guys, and first trained Nikita years ago. Now that she's "gone rogue," he's also the one in charge of hunting her down - despite the fact that he may have feelings for her.
The romantic tension is handled really well, as they lead a merry dance of cat-and-mouse without ever getting too heavy-handed. Back stories are woven in to explain Micheal's choices, and before you know it you're rooting for both of them.
In addition to its brilliant, believable characters, I love that Nikita respects our intelligence as viewers. For example, you know all those times when you're yelling at Primeval because - once again - the characters have done something so mind-bogglingly stupid that there's no way they could have gotten their pants on properly that morning, much less operate heavy machinery?* That never happens with Nikita. And the two or three times I *thought* it was happening, it turned out that the characters and writers were way ahead of me all along, planning a double-cross or a fake-out that soon had me cheering.
[*As you may have guessed, we're still watching Privemal. Can't they just give Lester & Connor their own show and be done with it?]
In season two the show keeps all the same characters, but everything about the story changes drastically - to the point that for the first few episodes I thought Nikita had jumped the shark and was a lost cause. (Plus Alex gets really, REALLY annoying.) Stick with it, though, because after a while Nikita hits its stride again, and the last half of season two is so perfect it actually surpasses the first. (John and I marathoned most of it over the course of a week, as we couldn't wait to find out what happened next!)
In season two many of the minor characters take on a larger role, so that Nikita becomes less just Nikita and more of an ensemble cast. I found I liked nearly all of them, though - especially Birkhoff - so rather than messing with a good thing, this actually just made the show that much better. They also started introducing more humor to the show, so you get some good laughs mixed in with all the non-stop action.
The long-suffering, ever snarky, often hilarious, and eventually awesome Seymour Birkhoff.
In season three the show once again re-invents itself, as Nikita's mission changes yet again. It's neat to see completely new story arcs introduced each season, though, instead of just re-hashing the same old "revenge" plot lines.
Nikita obviously has plenty of violence and killing, plus some torture scenes that get pretty intense, but nothing worse than your average network TV action/thriller. Ditto for language and sex scenes, although there are surprisingly few of those. It's heavier than, say, White Collar (another show I love), but since the good guys almost always win, it's still very much a feel-good kind of show. (Although it has made me cry a few times.)
Netflix only has the first two seasons of Nikita available for online streaming right now, so I've only seen a few episodes of season three so far. (You can buy them individually on iTunes, but at $3 a pop it really adds up!) The season finale of Season 3 just aired about two weeks ago, though, so I'm hoping Netflix gets it soon.
Oh, and I also just learned that there will be a fourth and final season of Nikita, but with only 6 episodes. Kind of a shame, but here's hoping that allows the writers to wrap the storyline up neatly.
So, to sum up, if you like shows with plenty of action, great writing, and strong female characters who seriously kick butt, give Nikita a try! And most importantly, don't tell me what happens in season three yet. I have to catch up!