I watched Dana Delany’s new ABC show, “Body of Proof,” last night and I can’t say I was impressed. The brief review is that I’ll give it another couple of episodes, but I don’t expect it to last.*
Body of Proof follows the life and career of Medical Examiner Megan Hunt, once a high-flying neurosurgeon, who now works in Philadelphia’s Medical Examiner’s Office after a car accident abruptly ended her neurosurgery career. As a Medical Examiner Megan applies her vast medical knowledge, keen instincts and variously charming and scalpel-like personality to the task of solving the medical mysteries of the dead and bringing the people responsible for their deaths to justice. But that’s only half the show.
Read showrunner Chris Murphey’s pitch to the public for the rest.
On the surface, the show sounds promising; in addition to her job as a Medical Examiner, Megan Hunt has no real friends (thanks to her often-acerbic personality, which she uses to keep people at bay), a failed marriage, and a broken relationship with her young daughter, the latter two thanks to her obsessive dedication to her former career. In addition to the weekly mysteries, then, we should be intrigued to see how Megan overcomes her weaknesses, rebuilds her old relationships, and builds new ones.
Trouble is…. We’ve seen all this before. Irascible medical detective? Quincy. (Or, for those too young to remember Quincy, House.) Crime fighter with broken personal relationships? The Equalizer. Scientific crime-fighting with cut up bodies on a table? Almost any procedural of the last 20 years. Witty, snappy, ironic dialogue? Too many shows to name, and it’s become cliché.
And that’s the problem with Body of Proof: there’s nothing special about it. Not the stories, not the investigation, not the dialogue, and mostly not the cast. Regarding the cast, Delaney herself is an excellent actress deserving of better writing. From among the supporting cast, Sonja Sohn (“Detective Baker”) is a favorite from her role in The Wire. The rest… eh. Jeri Ryan (“Dr. Kate Murphy”) didn’t appear enough to make an impression. Windell Middlebrooks (“Dr. Brumfield”) risks being turned into the show’s regular punching bag. John Carroll Lynch’s character (“Detective Morris”) is a walking stereotype, “the cop who hates the star’s character but eventually turns into an ally she charmingly annoys.” Nicholas Bishop as Delaney’s sidekick (cop-turned-ME “Peter Dunlop”) who’s willing to tell her what she needs to hear… well, lose the stubble-beard, guy. It’s another cliché. Of course, so is the whole character.
The one relatively bright spot was seen in Delany/Hunt’s relationship with her daughter. Obviously estranged (a fact perhaps exacerbated by her ex-husband, who has custody), Hunt struggles to find a way to begin reconnecting with “Lacey” on the occasion of Lacey’s birthday. No spoilers, but, she does, and the final payoff is nicely handled — for once avoiding the trite.
But, that was about it. As I wrote at the start, I’ll give the show another couple of episodes to see if it improves, but I don’t think this “Body” will be rising from the table any time soon.
*Yeah, I know I said that about Rizzoli and Isles and was proved massively wrong, but cable has relatively lower standards for what constitutes a “hit” than do the broadcast networks. “Body of Proof” has a much higher hurdle to clear.
UPDATE: According to Variety, Body’s premiere enjoyed “3” rating in the coveted 18-49 category, with 13.9 million viewers. That’s a good start, but the key will be to see the trend over the next several weeks.