Let's face it. We've all felt the suspicious gaze of strangers as we walked along the sidewalk muttering under our breath or been caught unawares by a roommate or family member while having a one-sided conversation with ourselves. That's the premise behind Raines. NBC's newest drama tells the tale of an oddball detective who finds murder-solving clues in visual manifestations of his own internal dialogue.
"When I'm working on a script," said series creator Graham Yost in a recent conference call with reporters, "I'm often talking out dialogue to myself and imagining that I'm in a conversation. And so I thought, 'Well, what if I dramatize that and what if it was a detective?' And then, you know, here we are."
Even before its first airing, many have compared Raines to shows like Medium and Ghost Whisperer. But the talking dead in this show are no ghosts: They're simply figments of a wounded imagination and know no more than Detective Raines himself.
"You know, it's basically post-traumatic stress disorder," Yost clarified. "This guy had his partner die in front of him and he himself was shot, and something that used to be just a technique of his, talking with the victim...but it was all, he says, 'behind his eyes,' and now it's out in front of him. That is a symptom of PTSD, having hallucinations...so I think we're dealing with a realm of human experience that doesn't get all that much attention on television, especially not for the main character."
"With all this loss and now with death always being around him and confronting him...his mind plays tricks on him," added series star Jeff Goldblum. "He starts to not only lose faith in himself and his mind but...you know...sort of lose confidence in all mental things...and it's disturbing. But I think it has an interesting adventurous sort of very lively and present-making effect on him, if you know what I mean. It's a real inside odyssey that's really intriguing."
Yost holds that the innovation of Raines can be found in more than just the title character. "The other thing is that we realized early on that this was--I don't know how best to put it--but it's a sort of pro-victim series in that in most murder shows, in most murder movies, murder fiction, you know...you don't really get to know the victims very much," he said. "They're dead early on, and you might find out a little bit about them, but you don't spend time with them. And even though this is a hallucination that he is having, we present it as a real character. It's his imagination of the victim...but by the end, it gets pretty close to what that person actually was like. And by focusing on that, we sort of give the victims their last chance at solving their murders and perhaps completing their one mission in life."
If Raines succeeds, its troubled hero might easily become one of television's classic eccentrics--and will certainly join a long list of respectably weird characters played by Goldblum himself. Asked to compare Detective Raines to some of his previous characters, Goldblum said, "I've done these couple of cops recently but, you know, in some ways, I think he's a little different than things I've done in that he can be unexpected and unique but is at times very quiet and simple and straight ahead, you know, and kind of deeply caring. He's a lone wolf and claims to have seen it all, but we find out he cares very deeply, especially during this period of newfound vulnerability and identity adventure. And then, I guess, not unlike several characters, he's going through some kind of deep transformation."
"The spin that we put on it," said Yost, "is that he's having this pretty dramatic mental crisis, and to me, that's a way to get inside his character. One thing with a lot of the hard-boiled guys...they don't really let you in very much. You know, they're men of few words, and they really don't volunteer much. With Raines, in his interactions with the victims, we see more of his true self, and I found that very intriguing."
But can this mental crisis sustain a series through more than one season? Yost thinks so.
"Our goal has long been that...we would get to a point where Raines has this thing ongoing, but it becomes far more of a gift to him than something he struggles with as it occurs," he said. "And then once you're at that point, then yes, we can run forever because then he's not necessarily trying to keep it a secret from the world. There would still be some people he wouldn't want to know about it, and we would always have to have an antagonist somewhere in his life. But we could focus more on him in the relationship with the victim."
"My hope is that once they see an episode or two of this, they'll see the emotional side of the concept; that seeing him interact with the victims is a pretty interesting thing to see week in and week out. They'll come for Jeff, and they'll stay for Jeff, and then they will fall in love with the concept."
Those who haven't yet seen the first episode of Raines can find it in its entirety at NBC.com. Raines airs Thursdays at 10:00 p.m. on NBC.