Body of Proof Is Dead on Arrival

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Did you watch the premiere of Body of Proof last night? It's the new ABC crime procedural starring Dana Delany as a kind of Quincy, M.E. with a sassier attitude and more on-trend wardrobe. Delany plays Dr. Megan Hunt, a brilliant former neurosurgeon who we learn has lost her career to a car accident that killed another driver and impaired her motor skills (or at least she thinks it has). Robbed of her ability to operate, she now puts her superpowers of deduction to use solving stymieing crimes for the city. “Don’t believe everything you’ve heard about me,” Hunt tells the skeptical, mildly retarded detectives on whose turf she so brazenly trespasses. “The truth is much, much worse.”

So Body of Proof is going to be one of those shows. To call it derivative is almost so obvious as to be tacit. You need only have a passing awareness of shows like House M.D., Bones, Crossing Jordan, The Mentalist, and Lie to Me to feel their tried formats hovering over the proceedings. But, to quote Fred Armisen channeling Joy Behar, “So what? Who cares?” The sheer number of these shows seems to suggest there’s an audience for them, and their formats aren’t really all that different from that of a Sherlock Holmes novel: Genius sees what mortals cannot; sidekicks marvel; crime is solved; genius celebrates by injecting some heroin.

But unlike Dr. House, Hunt has no drug addictions or other chemical dependencies to work through. There are no signs of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or Tourette's Syndrome, or even an irrational fear of clowns. Hunt doesn’t even really have that bad of an attitude, despite her corny warnings to the contrary. Her failings, it seems, are mostly non-existent—beyond her workaholism, which was apparently enough for a judge to deny her custody of her only daughter. Now, I’m no divorce lawyer, but I’m pretty sure, “Mommy makes way too much money as a brilliant neurosurgeon” isn’t really a viable cause for giving Daddy full custody? Like, “Mommy spends way too much time prostituting herself in exchange for vials of methamphetamine” would be a pretty good reason, but not “working really hard?” And yet there she is at the door on her daughter’s birthday, and her jerk of an ex-husband (Once and Again's Jeffrey Nordling) practically slams the door in her face. “Get out of here, woman who provided too well for her family! You are tragically faulted, yet your hubris is also your greatest virtue. Go wallow in your inner-irony!” I mean, come on.

The central mystery of the pilot, involving a runner found dead with a concussion, was utterly uninvolving, which leaves us instead to just familiarize ourselves with the cast. Peter Dunlop is Hunt’s Dr. Watson—a former cop who acts as her minder and pal. He’s played by Australian actor Nicholas Bishop, looking almost startlingly like a less-pretty Simon Baker. Sci-fi sex symbol Jeri Ryan is on hand as Dr. Kate Murphy, Hunt’s boss, here to provide some weekly version of the sentiment, “Watch your step, Hunt.” John Carroll Lynch—the dough-faced character actor whose oversized features can relay both menace and a profound thickness—is Det. Bud Morris, there to cast doubt on every one of Hunt’s deductive leaps, only to be proven the chump at every turn. And Sonja Sohn, sainted forever for her role as a lesbian drug cop on The Wire, is also accounted for, slumming as Morris’s partner. And then there’s Delany, who’s doing her best with what she’s given. The most I can offer is that she’s pleasant enough to be around for an hour of going through the crime-show motions.