Please note: As a courtesy, please do not reproduce these comments to newsgroups, forums or other online places. Links only please.
Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2010-2011 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season (or one that didn't make the cut) and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. Keep in mind that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on the original sales presentation which was screened to us privately or supplied by a third party NOT an informational, not-for-review screener provided by the network in question.]
BODY OF PROOF (ABC)
(written by Chris Murphey; directed by Nelson McCormick; TRT: 45:51)
The network's description: "Dr. Megan Hunt (Dana Delany) was in a class of her own, a brilliant neurosurgeon at the top of her game. But her world is turned upside down when a devastating car accident puts an end to her time in the operating room. Megan resumes her career as a medical examiner, determined to solve the puzzle of who or what killed the victims. Her instincts are sharp, but she's developed a reputation for graying the lines of where her job ends and where the police department's begins. It turns out her career isn't the only thing that will need to be rebuilt; Megan's family has taken a backseat to her ambition, and now she's discovering there's a lot of work to do when it comes to dissecting her relationships with the living."
What did they leave out? The project originally went by "Body of Evidence."
The plot in a nutshell: It's been four years since a car accident ended Megan Hunt's (Dana Delany, as stunning as ever) career as a neurosurgeon. The resulting paresthesia makes it impossible for her hands to remain still for long periods of time, meaning the only people she can safely operate on are the dead. Subsequently, she's become a medical examiner, where her talents make her Philadelphia's best. And while her figurative wings have been clipped, her hubris remains as strong as ever - a fact not lost on those who must work with her. "Don't believe everything you've heard about me," she explains to detectives Bud Morris (John Carroll Lynch) and Samantha Baker (Sonja Sohn). "The truth is much worse."
And with that she's tasked with a murder of Angela Swanson, an ambitious lawyer who was beaten to death while out for her morning jog. Megan's autopsy however turns up much more than the cause of death. "There are over 100 trillion cells in the human body, 60,000 miles of arteries, veins and capillaires, 208 bones, 40 plus organs and dozens of life sustaining systems [in the human body]," she explains to an impatient Bud. "When the range of possibilities is infinite, I abide by one rule and one rule only: the body is the evidence." Among her findings: Angela's been attacked before, a detail which Bud runs down as the result of her ex-boyfriend pushing her down a flight of stairs. Megan however isn't going to sit on the sidelines while the cops investigate, a development which frustrates the already annoyed Bud.
Thankfully she's got one person on her side: medical investigator/ex-cop Peter Dunlap (Nicholas Bishop), her buffer with the police and the sounding board for her theories. She's going to need his help too: Curtis Brumfield (Windell Middlebrooks), the deputy chief, and Kate Murphy (Jeri Ryan), the chief medical examiner, aren't thrilled by her tendency to order expensive tests to chase down her various investigative whims. Even worse her personal life is a mess: she's divorced and her ex-husband (Jeffrey Nordling) has custody of their 12-year-old daughter, both of whom she ignored in the name of her career. Her accident however served as a wake-up call, one which showed her what really matters. Angela Swanson's case will then prove to do the same: that she's not alone in her quest to build a new life.
What works: Delany carries the show with ease: her Megan Hunt is Icarus after flying too close to the sun, a former god now left to walk amongst the mortals. It's an adjustment she's not taking well, especially after realizing her previous ambitious came at a high cost. Her performance helps pave over the show's more rocky elements as, coupled with its "Quincy, M.E." meets "CSI" vibe, there's the sense this could turn into a solid procedural.
What doesn't: In terms of the opening hour itself, it's very piloty: Megan gives lots of grandstanding speeches designed to sell her unique perspective while the case feels artificially preloaded to give maximum credence to it. She's the tortoise with her methodical investigations and empathy while the police are the hares with their snap judgements and quick results. To that end we're told too much rather than shown, making everything feel very spoon fed instead of organically driven. Angela Swanson's murder likewise feels too pat: she's Megan's plight incarnate, a workaholic who after her own "accident" got a second chance to live her life, only to have someone take it away.
Megan then conveniently must not only avenge her but prove she too can embrace her second chance! As for the show in general, "Proof" has the wonky tendency to deputize Megan as a de facto cop as she asks questions and does things far beyond the scope of her job, making Bud and Sam - who annoint her the "smocked crusader" - the clean up crew at best, Keystone Kops at worst. And if that wasn't enough she uses her toolbox of medical MacGuffins to elicit confessions, like a "Matlock" in heels. Ultimately none of the above are really fatal flaws, they just make its procedural aspects a little too transparent for my tastes. And as mentioned above, Delany makes that pill a little easier to swallow. All in all, as far as Friday night distractions go...
The bottom line: ...it's a enjoyable enough way to spend an hour.