A High 5 For A&E's new Spy Drama

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A&E Network's MI-5 is the latest entry among the spate of spy dramas on television and in movies, and it's a strong one.

This fast-paced weekly series is based on the exploits of MI-5 (aka "Five"), the United Kingdom equivalent of our Central Intelligence Agency.

Matthew Macfadyen is the topical series' main focus as case officer Tom Quinn, with Keeley Hawes as Zoe and David Oyelowo as Danny his 20-something team members. They're often at odds with Five's head of operations, Harry Pearce — whose portrayal by Peter Firth resembles Daniel Benzali's Quinn on CBS's The Agency.

A&E's premiere installment begins with a tip that 20 bombs are about to be planted, targeting family-planning doctors. Later, as the agents bug the suspected bomber's home, a cat dashes into the rain. The pet is found and put back inside — with an agent using a hair dryer, so the suspects are none the wiser. (That was inspired by something that happened to MI-5 operatives, according to the producers.)

The second episode, about a sadist out to provoke a race war, delivers this series' first unsettling moment when an undercover assignment goes awry. The sixth installment — in which an Irish splinter group seeks a deal in exchange for informing on an Arab terrorist group — closes with yet another shocker.

The latter two outings indicate that MI-5
is as willing as Fox's 24
to surprise viewers by killing off regular cast members. The series also periodically borrows 24's multiple-screen look.

Each MI-5
episode is self-contained, although a subplot on the double lives led by such spies — Tom, in this case — is ongoing, as has been the case on The Agency
and ABC's Alias.

Obviously, the producers (who include the BCC and Kudos Productions) also intend to push the language envelope, à la FX's The Shield
— with various expletives and even the F word earning A&E's newcomer a TV-14 rating.

Of the other regulars, only Jenny Agutter as Tessa stands out in the three episodes provided for screening.

MI-5
will bow on A&E July 22 at 10 p.m.

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