I know what most people think when they think “weekly procedural”…it’s the same thing the suits think at the studios. “Why would I watch this one? What’s different about it?”.
Columbo had his mannerisms. Jessica Fletcher was a crime writer and did her Miss Marple routine. Castle moved Jessica out of mild murders and brings a fiction writer’s perspective to the NYPD, Patrick Jane was a mentalist / psychic / con artist, Cal Lightman could detect facial micro-expressions to tell when someone was lying, Shawn Spencer pretends to be a PSYCH-ic detective but is much like Jane or Lightman. There are a bevy of female medical examiners, journalists of varying stripes, telepathic Listeners, P.I.s, and damaged cops.
So we need something new. Something fresh. Something familiar, but new. How about Eric McCormack as a psychology professor…but he can’t be gay like Will and Grace, we’ll make him straight. And give him a female partner. Someone young and innocent looking. A former student now a cop. No, better, the FBI. But he can’t just be a psych expert, he needs something else, a twitch, an itch, a damaged history to make him torn. How about a mental illness, like Goren in L&O: CI? Maybe schizophrenia and his hallucinations will be his brain creating physical manifestations of his detection of clues? Like a doctor that doesn’t really exist talking to him and telling him what to look for through cryptic hints. And an ex-gf who “completes” him, keeps him grounded, but despite being a real person, exists only in his imagination. To quote George Costanza, “Now there’s a show.”
And it is, actually. I am making fun of their thought process in pitching it to the suits, but it surprisingly works. Not once have I looked at McCormack and thought, “Will as a detective”. Then again, I wasn’t a hugeWill & Grace fan. Watched occasionally, but wasn’t “must-see” TV for me. Not even when Harry Connick Jr. showed up and did decent turn. Good dialogue writing, lots of snappiness, but the show bored me. Here, the show is not boring.
The format of the show is relatively straightforward, even formulaic. The professor will talk to his class, explaining an area of neuropsychology to them, which by happy coincidence will be related to the case for the week. Sure, it’s exposition by dialogue, but it works. You get the deeper question, and then FBI girl comes in and asks for his help with her latest case. I have no idea why she seems so young and he looks like he is ancient in comparison (admittedly McCormack does turn 50 next year and she’s 33, but it seems more like 55 and 25). But I digress…as the show progresses, he’ll start to have schizophrenic episodes, hallucinations, etc., they’ll reveal a clue to the solution to the case, and voila, they’ll solve it. Then back to the classroom to wrap up the psycho philosophy that explains everything.
I like the show, it zips along okay. The “professor solves everything” might get a little tired, but no one has tired of Patrick Jane or Columbo yet, so maybe not. I’m not sure the psychology is completely sound as presented, but I don’t care, it’s a plot device, not a documentary. I’ll watch for as long as it’s on, but it’s one of those short-season-network-shows, probably ending just in time to give me Rizzioli and Isles (weekly procedural with female rogue cop and female rogue ME as partners…how is that I only just realized that Isles is the same actress (Sasha Alexander) who played Cate Todd on NCIS? I wouldn’t even have thought of it except that I just saw a rerun with her last night. Weird. Anyway.).
See you around the channels…