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Access (Almost) Denied

By Belinda Acosta, Fri., July 23, 2010

James Badge Dale stars as an intelligence analyst in AMC's new drama, <i>Rubicon</i>.
James Badge Dale stars as an intelligence analyst in AMC's new drama, Rubicon.

Don't make me cut you.

That's what went through my head when I heard about the kerfuffle over the negotiation of programming fees between AT&T's U-verse (my current cable provider) and Rainbow Media (a division of Cablevision Systems). The current contract agreement expired on July 14. If the two entities couldn't reach an agreement, it would mean that U-verse would drop AMC, meaning I would not be able to watch the season four premiere of my beloved Mad Men this Sunday. I was incensed. Make no mistake: If U-verse dropped AMC and I could not watch Mad Men, I would drop U-verse. I've done it before. I'll do it again. If only I could drop bad men as quickly as I drop cable providers.

I realize I sound like a petulant child to the cable providers' ears, but I don't care where I get to see my favorite series, as long as I can see them. Going against my own, previously steadfast philosophy that I would not pay for free broadcast TV or for a series I already paid to see via my cable subscription, I did pay to download an episode of Mad Men once when I somehow neglected to record it. It was an eye-opening experience for me, making me rethink the idea of an à la carte system (something cable providers are dead set against). I'm not alone in the desire to see what I want, when I want it. If any cable provider is going to stand in my way, I'll go elsewhere. Case closed.

Fortunately, U-verse and Rainbow Media came to an agreement late last week. AMC, IFC, WeTV, and the Sundance Channel are not going away. Big sigh. But Mad Men was not the only show on my mind. Also at stake was whether I would be able to see AMC's newest original drama, Rubicon. I watched a sneak peek of the pilot online, and let me tell you: AMC is on a roll with these high-end, highly stylized dramas. And yes, if push came to shove, I would pay to watch it elsewhere if I had to.

Rubicon, executive produced by Henry Bromell (Homicide: Life on the Street, Chicago Hope, Brotherhood), is a spy drama, a thriller with a capital "T." It stars James Badge Dale (The Pacific) as Will Travers, a soul-weary special agent for the American Policy Institute. The job of API agents is to evaluate intel from various sources – CIA, FBI, the National Security Agency – and see if there is something hiding in plain sight: some pattern, some common thread that may or may not point to a pending action by terrorists and other hostile entities. As an API analyst, Travers is among the elite of the elite. He's not a spy. His work is tedious and time-consuming. Ultimately, it's his work and that of his colleagues that decide the missions the spies are sent on.

Travers is doing his job ably, working for his father-in-law. The two of them are close, still mourning over the death of Travers' wife and child on 9/11. So their work has added significance to them. What if the various federal agencies actually worked with one another? How would things that day have gone differently?

The series opens with the death of a wealthy man. His death is referenced throughout the episode, and viewers soon realize his death is much more than ordinary and that a bit of information Travers uncovered may have extraordinary consequences.

Inspired by heart-pounding, Seventies-era thrillers like Three Days of the Condor and The Parallax View, Rubicon promises to keep you glued to the screen – TV, computer, iPhone, or other.

Other cast members include Jessica Collins (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation), Dallas Roberts (The L Word), Christopher Evan Welch (Vicky Cristina Barcelona), Lauren Hodges (Law & Order), Arliss Howard (Full Metal Jacket), Roger Robinson (Brother to Brother), and Michael Cristofer (The Bonfire of the Vanities).

Rubicon premieres with a two-hour pilot on Sunday, Aug. 1, at 7pm on AMC. The long-awaited fourth season of Mad Men returns to AMC on Sunday, July 25, at 9pm on AMC.

As always, stay tuned.


E-mail Belinda Acosta at tveye@austinchronicle.com.

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