Opinion

Even AI can't compute the daft drama of The Night Agent

Netflix's new political drama The Night Agent is terrible, but also soothing. It allows you to take your brain off the hook, says Lucy Sweet

A man holds a gun to a woman in a standoff with armed guards

Gabriel Basso as Peter Sutherland, Kari Matchett as President Travers in The Night Agent. Image: Dan Power/Netflix © 2023

Writing, as you can probably tell from this amazing column, is a fine art. The problem is, anyone who has ever written an email thinks they can do it, budgets are being slashed, and now we have another threat to the profession – AI. Who cares if you don’t have any ideas or your writing skills extend to typing “Milk, eggs, Andrex” into your Notes app? Just use ChatGPT and let it do the work for you. Meanwhile, the genius who wrote the incredible line, “Your earlobes are thick and chewy, like barnacle meat”, in Succession is flipping McSpicy burgers and living in a skip.

The Hollywood writers’ strike wasn’t on when The Night Agent was released, but if ever a show was written by AI, it’s this one. It doesn’t stop this daft political thriller being entertaining and unintentionally funny, though. Long story short, it’s about an FBI agent who saves countless innocent civilians from a bombing on a subway train and is recruited to answering the night phone at the White House (is this actually a thing?). From 8pm to 8am he sits in a room with a phone in it, a comically large phone that will only ring when something really bad and dramatic happens.

Whaddya know, in the first episode, it goes off, and we are taken on a circuitous journey of corruption and intrigue at the highest level. I haven’t seen the whole series yet but I’m assuming from the shifty machinations and clunky acting that the call is coming from Inside The (White) House.

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But why am I trying so hard to explain this to you? Let me see what happens when I put “write a funny TV review about The Night Agent” into AI instead.

*Puts feet up and smokes a cigar*

Ah, here we go:

If you’re looking for a show that will keep you on the edge of your seat, The Night Agent on Netflix is not it. I mean, unless you’re sitting on a really uncomfortable couch or something. The characters are about as interesting as a beige wall, and the plot moves slower than a sloth on Ambien. The only thing that kept me watching was the hope that something, anything, exciting would happen. Spoiler alert: it didn’t. Overall, The Night Agent is like a boring date that you can’t wait to end. Save yourself the time and watch something else. Trust me, your couch will thank you.

OKAAAAY, thanks, AI (can I call you A for short?). Not bad, not bad, I see what you did there with the couch, haha. I have some notes. I think we can do better than about as interesting as a beige wall. How about, “The characters could be played by cabbages wearing wigs” or “The characters have the emotional depth of a roll of damp loft insulation” or “the characters could’ve been written by Sooty?” And I would argue that the plot doesn’t move slower than a sloth on Ambien – it’s more glacial than that. Maybe you could say “moves slower than the tectonic plates of Pangea?”

Also, I must say I disagree with AI’s assessment of the show as being boring. It’s not boring, it’s just terrible, and these are two different things. Terrible things can be wonderfully soothing and relaxing, and The Night Agent has nothing in it to challenge your brain cells. It’s like a Christmas movie, but with hitmen and the FBI in it. All you have to do is take your brain off the hook, stare at that beige wall and try not to answer the phone. Actually, if you’re a writer, it probably won’t ring anyway, so you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy it.

The Night Agent is on Netflix

Lucy Sweet is a freelance journalist

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