NBC “borrows” “The Lost Symbol” (9 p.m., TV-14) from its streaming partner, Peacock. Based on the 2009 novel by Dan Brown (“The Da Vinci Code”), it scours Washington, D.C., in search of Masonic signs and symbols and a shadowy cabal out to change the fate of mankind — or something.
Fans of earlier Brown adaptations have gotten used to Tom Hanks (“Finch”) as Harvard professor and “symbolist” Robert Langdon. “Symbol” concerns a younger Langdon, portrayed by Australian actor Ashley Zukerman. With his lean frame and tousled hair, he often resembles the modern-day Jimmy Stewart that Hanks was supposed to evoke — only the star of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” never had to translate Latin or cogitate about codicils.
Brown novels remind me of the old joke about Catskills resorts Woody Allen recycled in “Annie Hall”: “The food here is terrible. And such small portions.” Brown’s prose style is infamously awkward, and his books are clunky collections of pompous explication, but readers can’t get enough of them.
Brown’s novels and their adaptations often unfold like packaged tours of historic sites and cities. And as COVID has turned so many into armchair travelers, “Symbol” might arrive as a tonic for the housebound. The show’s episodic nature enhances the comic-book level of adventure. How will Langdon get out of this jam? Tune in next week for the next thrill-packed episode.
Just as many of the bad guys in these dramas appear to be tampering with fundamental forces of nature, NBC and Peacock might have reversed the natural order of broadcasting. It might have been better to launch “Symbol” on NBC and allow viewers to catch up on Peacock. Series that begin modestly on network or cable have become hits elsewhere. No one seemed to watch “You” on Lifetime, but it took off on Netflix. NBC ditched “Manifest,” and then it also became a Netflix sensation. Many FX series have been supplemented by their audiences on Hulu and Netflix. It has been said “no one” has noticed the recent “Impeachment: American Crime Story” because it’s “only” on cable.
As free streaming sites go, Peacock ranks among the best. It offers multiple chances to catch up on NBC series and presents a coherent collection of old shows and movies. It avoids the atmosphere of the thrift-store jumble many of its rivals give off. So, perhaps NBC’s tease of “The Lost Symbol” is an effort to get network viewers to sample Peacock. Perhaps. It would take an intelligence as encyclopedic as Robert Langdon’s to decipher all of today’s streaming options and broadcasting strategies.
TONIGHT’S OTHER HIGHLIGHTS
• The Steelers host the Bears in Monday night NFL action (7 p.m., ESPN).
• Trouble bubbles up after a cruise ship hot tub homicide on “NCIS” (8 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
• A lockdown on the set forces cooperation on “The Big Leap” (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
• “Backstage Pass: Countdown to the CMA Awards” (9 p.m., ABC) anticipates the big night via visits with Luke Bryan, Jimmie Allen, Lauren Alaina, Lady A, Carly Pearce and Keith Urban.
• “Independent Lens” (9 p.m., PBS, TV-MA, check local listings) presents the documentary “Ferguson Rises,” about one father’s reaction to the death of his son at the hands of local police.
• Lauren Risley untangles real estate problems on the new series “Call the Closer” (9 p.m., HGTV).
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