A Murder in the First Community
Sunday 10:00 PM on TNT

Murder in the First S01E01: "Pilot"

Murder in the First is the latest in a long-ish line of shows that aim to marry that old stalwart of television dramas—the investigative and criminal procedural—with heavily serialized storytelling by focusing on a single case for an entire season. True Detective did it and intends to continue. The Fall and Top of the Lake and Broadchurch and Fargo have all offered variations on the approach. We thought that The Killing was going to do it, and eventually it did, in Season 3. Kidnapped gave it a go, but the back half of its run was ultimately burned off during the summer. Veronica Mars followed the structure for two of its three seasons. The Wire arguably did it in Season 1 before the series widened its scope. And of course, before those shows were even twinkles in their creators' eyes, there was Murder One back in 1996.

The ABC drama focused on the lawyers involved in the central murder more than it focused on the cops. However, like Murder in the First, it was co-created by Steven Bochco, and Murder in the First feels like an attempt to rework Murder One in a TV environment where heavy-ish primetime serialization is less of a curse than it was in 1996 (Murder One's "previously ons" grew longer and longer as the season progressed, and in Season 2, the show was restructured to do multiple cases in shorter arcs; think Season 3 of Veronica Mars). There's nothing wrong with revisiting an idea that was conceived before its time, but in this case, it's an idea that's already been revisited quite often, and with varying degrees of success. So what does Murder in the First have to offer in an effort to stand out from its peers?


Aside from some really nice on-location shooting in San Francisco and to-be-expected excellent direction from Thomas Schlamme, not a whole lot. Murder in the First isn't bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it's not overly compelling, either—at least not yet. Given that this is how I feel about most of TNT's cop shows, including the departed The Closer, its follow-up Major Crimes, and even Rizzoli & Isles, the fact that Murder in the First fits snugly within that pattern may be enough to keep fans of those three programs more engaged than I was. And I don't mean that as a knock against Murder in the First, as TNT's particular brand of cop drama has fared pretty well for the cable channel; it's just never exactly grabbed me on a narrative level.

Murder in the First technically follows two cases, because the murder of Kevin Nyers, a drug user who was shot in the head, apparently wasn't as interesting or as sexy as Cindy, the naked dead woman who was found at the foot of her stairs. The two deaths are connected, however, through the tech wunderkind Erich Blunt (Tom Felton, of Harry Potter fame): Nyers may have been Erich's biological father (as we learned in a decent-enough twist), and Cindy was an employee and sex pal, if not a paramour, of Erich's. But now they're both dead, so whodunit? 

I admit that if Nyers was Murder in the First's only case, the show might feel a bit fresher, but the addition of Cindy's corpse—especially since she'll likely be more of a priority in the investigation—just had me thinking, "Oh. Good. Another dead woman. So very new." But at least the pilot provided a nice justification for its interest in Cindy: Since no one had bothered to claim Nyers' body, his murder probably would've been shuffled to the bottom of the list as soon as something more important came up... like a dead young woman in a nice house. Thank goodness the two cases share a through-line, otherwise Nyers might never have gotten any TV justice.


The investigation belongs to Detectives Hildy Mulligan (Kathleen Robertson) and Terry English (Taye Diggs). She's a recent divorcée with a cute kid, and he, as of the end of this first episode, is a widower who lost his wife to pancreatic cancer. Terry is dealing with grief, he's out of the loop on who's famous in the city, and he uses a flip phone and an old wooden desk; meanwhile, Hildy is doing her best to keep her kid happy and has a dating app on her smartphone, because she's ready to move on from her ex. I get the impression that Terry was written to be a bit older than Hildy, but then the show cast Diggs and only changed a few things to make him seem more like a brother than a father. Hildy is certainly the more aggressive-seeming partner; I'm putting aside Terry's beating of a suspect since it seemed to be more of an aberration than anything else. So she's the spitfire cop and he's... well, it's hard to tell what Terry brings to the table just yet.  

Diggs and Robertson already have an easy chemistry, however, which gives the pairing of their two characters a nice lived-in quality that I can groove on. They may butt heads in the future about how to proceed with the case, but the foundation of their partnership seems solid enough that I don't really expect it to crack. In their individual stories, there's less to immediately respond to with regard to Hildy's personal life, apart from the fact that she loves her kid and does not like her ex; Roberston doesn't have anything particularly meaty to sink her teeth into. Diggs has the maudlin plot of the dying/dead wife, and so he has a little more to do, at least at the outset. Terry, Diggs' performance, and the plot are fine so far as these things go.

If there's anyone who immediately stands out, it's Felton. He's got the peacock role as Erich, a likely blend of Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs' respective ids. The actor reuses a lot of the menace he occasionally deployed as Draco Malfoy, but with a bit more of an edge to it. Even if Erich stole the code for his 4-D/virtual reality experience—now's the time to steel yourself for so many Oculus Rift riffs on procedurals—he's an arrogant and cunning guy who manages to harbor any number of secrets despite being an avowed supporter of transparency. Of course he would be, though, wouldn't he? Dramatic winking and all that.

As I mentioned above, my response to Murder in the First s much the same as my response to TNT's other cop shows. Even though I'm not always a fan of the narratives, the network attracts quality actors—The Closer had and Major Crimes has unsung and under-appreciated ensembles, while Rizzoli & Isles touts two great leads and a decent supporting bench—and Murder in the First is no different. TV pros like Steven Webber, Richard Schiff, Currie Graham, and Jamie McShane round out the cast, and titan James Cromwell has at least stepped up a level from Betrayal

So even if the plot, thus far, is kind of middling, there are good actors here to help keep the show chugging along. During most other summers, that would be enough of a reason to give Murder in the First a heartier recommendation, but the show is merely solid—albeit wholly unambitious—and when there are so many more exciting shows on the horizon, solid and unambitious don't really cut it.



STRAY CASE NOTES

– Detective Molk (Raphael Sbarge) is already a favorite character, second only to Richard Schiff's ponytail. His announcement that he's on a juice cleanse provided a much-needed chuckle.

– Hildy's jump from rubber ducky to duck tattoo seemed like a real stretch for me. The tattoo index wouldn't have incorporated ducks as birds into the search parameters, or are people just that lousy at writing metadata? 

– Erich doesn't see a lot of paper; I wonder if he sees a lot of photographs conveniently scattered on a table, like Cindy's were?

– If you're at all interested in this sort of series, I highly recommend Murder One. It had been a while since I watched it myself, so re-watched a few episodes prior to Murder in the First, and it generally holds up pretty well. The entire series is on Hulu.

– I'm not sure if we're going to do week-to-week coverage of Murder in the First, but I have seen the next two episodes, and they're about the same quality as the pilot. The third episode may be the most 1990s-y cliché-ridden episode of the lot, but it's also the one where the narrative properly kicks off, so hopefully the fourth episode will be a bit of a humdinger.

– While I've seen the next two episodes, and thus have a little more information than you all do, I already have my guess as to who the culprit (provided there's only one) may be. Feel free to sound off with early predictions of your own in the comments.


What did you think of Murder in the First's debut? Going to stay with the case?


Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 7/24/2016

Season 3 : Episode 5

Next Episode

AIRS ON 7/31/2016

Season 3 : Episode 6

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I admit, the only reason I decided to check out this show is because it's actually filmed in my home town (as opposed to being set in San Francisco but filmed in Vancouver like Rogue and the new Godzilla film and Rise of the Planet of the Apes). I also like several of the show's actors But one thing irks me. The producers couldn't come up with a more original name for the tech company that is front & center in the show. Come on, "AppleSN"? Nah, that's not supposed to be a fictional version of the mega-corporation that brought us the iPhone, not at all. And, in episode 2, the uber arrogant, d-bag CEO of "AppleSN" (kind of an evil Mark Zuckerberg) even makes a snide comment about Google after testing his Google Gla....I mean, AppleSN VR Goggles. Lame
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After seeing the movie Heaven with Martin Donovan and Richard Schiff playing an intensely sleazy guy I've hoped he'd get some show where he's more than ensemble to a procedural. Give the guy a meaty role and he'll tear it up, oh well paychecks for everybody.
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When the sci-fi channel came out with their network slogan "Imagine Greater", I thought that it was the dumbest thing I had ever heard... until TNT unveiled "Boom". Are you friggin kidding me?
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I was on vacation and have lots of TV shows to catch up on.

Just saw this and I think it is good enough for me to continue watching. The killing was dark and rainy. The Bridge was brown and sandy and this one is bright and sunny (at least all the locations seems to be). It is very interesting they are doing this type of show in this way. Even the death of the wife was not particularly shot in a heavy depressing way.

I liked the two main leads but I loved Erich Blunt (Tom Felton). He is very suitable to play this kind of character.

Just watch halt and catch fire episode two and its even better than first episode. I am surprised TV.com did not continue to cover that.
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btw, you're right noel, Murder One was excellent!

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You would think that actors of this caliber - and I like all of them a lot in the pilot - would attract a more original concept. Bochco is great at this, but I'm a little tired of this... The summer doldrums will of course give shows like this a break until Halle Berry lights us up (I hope!).
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Might be how little there is on TV, might be the nice SF setting but all I know, maybe I am checking this one out...
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"And of course, before those shows were even twinkles in their creators' eyes, there was Murder One back in 1996."

Really, the list ends there? Prime Suspect was around before Murder One was a twinkle in Bochco's eye. Given it remains the class of the format it seems wrong that it didn't get at least a mention.

(Regardless of that, this review's enough to make me give this new show a try.)
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You are totally correct. Sure to enrage you more: I am not the only reviewer who failed to mention Prime Suspect when recounting the geneology. Due to Bochco being involved in this and Murder One, folks pretty much stopped there.
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I'm in for a few more episodes. Some of these procedurals take a few episodes to catch their rhythm.
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It was okay, the actors were all fine, but the story didn't grab me. The whole 'tech kid billioner' thing is just bleh.
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I am on the fence about whether or not to keep watching this series and if the next few episodes are about the same as the pilot as you wrote then I'm not all that motivated to watch. But I will give it, at least, one more episode to make me care. It's on the same time as Longmire so its already DVR category.

The cast for this show is excellent and I hope the show becomes worthy of the talent sooner rather than later.
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Is Tom just in 1 episode?
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I can guarantee that he's at least in the first three episodes. (He's likely in all of them: he's a series regular.)
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It was ok.
Personally I could have done with a bit more of the investigation and a lot less of the private lives of the police.
For some reason I kept comparing it to the first episode of The Killing - I think it was the music and the single mom as a lead detective.
I'l probably stick with it for another couple of episodes as I do like the cast, but the plot structure may deter me for sticking with it long term - if they cut back on the officers family dramas/personal strife, it may increase my interest level
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Frankly, I was bored. But I will give it also a few episodes to see if it is going somewhere.
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They do not cut back on that. Terry's stuff is pretty front and center in the next two episodes. I could tell you about Hildy's stuff, but, ah-ah, spoilers.
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I'll probably check out the 2nd ep, but it doesn't bode well then
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I just confirmed that we'll be back for a four episode test post in two weeks, so hurrah? I suppose we'll see!
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"And while I appreciate the support, no need to keep watching something you're not enjoying just to soothe my desperate need for validation! Life's too short/interesting to spend 45-60 minutes on a show you're not grooving with. :)`" -

You're Jedi mind tricks will not work on me!
Those were the droids I was looking for, and I will continue to watch this extremely average show for 1 episode more than you post bubble reviews in the crime community - even if it means watching the entire season, then writing a script for a special episode, filming it and starring in all the roles.

I have insanity and an extremely competitive nature on my side.

LETS SEE WHO QUITS FIRST!

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I think it may hinge on the 4-ep test. Full reviews aren't up to me, but I may do capsule/bubble reviews depending on how that fourth episode plays for me. I COULD PUT THEM IN THE CRIME COMMUNITY.

And while I appreciate the support, no need to keep watching something you're not enjoying just to soothe my desperate need for validation! Life's too short/interesting to spend 45-60 minutes on a show you're not grooving with. :)
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OH ITS SOOOO ON!!!!

I'M GONNA WATCH THE SHIT OUT OF IT FOR AT LEAST 4 EPISODES!

Then I'll keep watching - if you do bubble recaps.

Or, are you going to quit after the 4 episode test?
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Quitter. ;)
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I'm not sure I'll make it to episode 4
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" It had been a while since I watched it myself, so re-watched a few episodes prior to Murder in the First, and it generally holds up pretty well."

Mainly because of Daniel Benzali, an actor who seems to have pretty much disappeared in the last 3 years from TV. :(
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It holds up not just because of him. The only thing that's really laughable at this point is the title sequence. It's really dated.
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Loved it.
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I'm game to try the show provided TNT gets over the whole 'Boom' crap. I was sick of that after one promo.
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That is not going anywhere, sadly. It's their brand new slogan.
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I enjoyed it and will certainly give it another few weeks to find it's footing. B+ from me.
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I'm always happy I never have to give a grade/rating to an episode. :)
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Oh, there is no community for this show, first time I get this problem!
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Personally, I'm in. Maybe I'll drop it later if, indeed, all these promising summer shows end up being good. But last summer I found myself with nothing to watch, so I'll take this one for now. Not very original, but I like the formula in general, and actors are good, as you said. What I like the least is yet another story of stolen code and big computer genius. It's like an invasion.
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I meant to check this out, if only for Tom Felton - yeah, I was a Draco Malfoy fangirl back in the day ;) I totally forgot it premiered last night. I think I will still give it a shot, as there aren't a ton of other shows I plan to watch this summer. Thanks for the review, Noel!
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Let me know what you thinking about him in it. Obviously I liked his performance here, but I admit to not having the fangirl investments! :)
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He's got that creapy wibe about him and its great.
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I'm watching the episode right now and we just met the nurse - Josefina - who seems creepy nice. I guess you have to be a special person to help people die, but how she greeted him with a smile saying she's almost dead and I'll call Dr. Shrake ending it with an even bigger smile was, well, just creepy. It might make for a good story about a mercy killing serial killer who kills with a smile. (Can we say reviewers would mention the Joker if someone did that episode (Criminal Minds), season long kill (this series), etc.).
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Murder One was insanely good during its first season. ABC made a huge mistake putting it up against ER, which at the time was only in its second season I think. Changing up the format and losing Daniel Benzali for the second season killed the show. Still, it was a series that was well ahead of its time, and likely paved the way for heavily serialized shows later, like 24.
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How dumb was TNT to premiere this against another cable crime solving drama that picked up confidence in its second season and is now, early in its third, one where all parts are working perfectly -- 'Longmire'? 2 episodes into Season 3 and it remains one which juggles series long story and crime of the episode superbly. People that like this type of show should be checking out 'Longmire' - Handsome Aussie Robert Taylor is quite excellent in the lead role with a cast filled with familiar faces Katie Sackhoff as his partner, Cassidy Freeman, Bailey Chase, and Lou Diamond Phillips as Walt's best friend Henry Standing Bear. (Easily the best role Katie's had since BSG's 'Starbuck'). The thing that makes it stand out amidst other crime procedurals is the writing. This is a talented veteran cast and the excellent scripts make it just that much better. Always an enjoyable hour. Sorry wrong show to discuss here


Probably check this one out because Kathleen Robertson has done some good work these past few years in a number of places most prominently, as mentioned, being 'Boss' and she had a good multi episode run in 'Bates Motel' this year as well. Taye Diggs - I've liked him since his first tv role, Adrian 'Sugar' Hill on 'Guiding Light'. Just a mere 14 years ago. Damn Taye Diggs is ageless.) Probably check this one out but not live.
More+
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& How dumb was TNT to premiere this against another cable crime solving drama
& that picked up confidence in its second season and is now, early in its third, one
& where all parts are working perfectly

I know what you mean and that is why I'm very glad someone created the DVR and the PVR! :-) If I had to choose between the two I'd be going with Longmire because of the investment I have in the characters PLUS the current story line!! Fortunately, I don't :-)
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Its all because of The Ferg. LOL. He's awesome. And is it just me or despite being 17 yrs older than Sackhoff is the will they/won't they simmering sexual tension between Walt and (married) Vic playing out almost perfectly. Liking also how bad Branch still looks. Yeah continuity!. He was shot and left out in the sun for hours to die in the finale so its nice to see he's still carrying that injury. The PTSD scene with Cady and Branch in the hospital last week was so uncomfortable to watch. She's the only one that knows how bad off he really is. 'Longmire' is on fire.
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You may enjoy this piece from NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans then... :)
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Much appreciated sir.
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As Jay would say: It stinks.

But THAT'S where Kathleen Robertson is from, the late lamented BOSS.
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She was in the last season of Bates Motel also.
I'm glad she got her own show.
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Can't forget her as Clare Matthews (I'm guessing on the last name) who was infatuated with Brandon Walsh and then dated Steve Sanders on the original 90210 :-)
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Clare Arnold !! (I don't see an edit function) so I am replying to myself
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I haven't watched it yet, but I am going to.

Noel, will you be reviewing this this for the entire season or just the premiere?
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Probably just the premiere.
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Pity, it would make a change to Kaitlin and Tim doing every review + news + videos + fluf pieces
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They're staff so they don't get paid by the article.
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I can't think of at least 5 others who have told me they don't like the lack of diversity of the writers. Everything is Tim & Kaitlin. No real complaints about Tim (hit or miss which is fine). The site may want to rethink their over reliance on salaried writers and volunteer community members. Sure it may be cost effective but not if they are alienating members to the point that they are upset (not speaking for anyone commenting here).
I thought the "customer" was always right…lol.
I missed reading your reviews and just check this out because you wrote it.
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I'm annoyed by the lack of diversity in tone at the moment is all
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I thought Brianne Davis did a good job playing dead. That couldn't have been the easiest position to stay in for the 12 or so hours they filmed in the house.
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I hardly think she had to lie there for 12 hours.
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I loved murder one, while the other shows you mentioned, I didn't like at all. (With the exception of Kidnapped.) So far I am liking the pilot, I think I'll keep watching.
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I LOVE IT !!!
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I'm going with Steven Weber as the killer.
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Yeah, obviously.
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Yeah, I'll be pissed if it's him. If the killer is the one you expect from the guest cast list then there's problems there alone.
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It's actually Richard Schiff's ponytail.
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I predict I'm going to watch it tonight, based on your review, Noel.
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Hah. Cool!
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Well, I watched it and it was pretty good. I kind of have to disagree with you about Major Crimes and Rizolli and Isles, because my wife and I enjoy them very much too. Now that the summer is upon us and the networks are hibernating the next 3 months, shows like these make summer TV watching fun, again. We actually enjoyed Crossing Lines last year, and hope it comes back it wasn't steller or anything like that. But it definitely filled the void as MC and R&I do.
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I can do Major Crimes, if there's nothing else on, but it's not appointment viewing for me by any stretch. R&I, on the other hand, I really never liked, despite the actors involved. My sense is that In The First is going to fall in between those two somewhere, at least based on what I've managed to see so far.
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You know, I have kind of a crush on Sasha Alexander, and I do see your point, the show gets off track at times, but I still like it.
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Interestingly, you mention that Murder in the First is much like the other cop dramas on TNT. I had enjoyed so much of what TNT has offered over the last few season, but I gave up on Major Crimes and Rizzoli and Isles after losing interest in the their narratives. I just stopped caring about the plight of the characters altogether. Even while viewing this pilot, I moaned at the main characters' stories because I felt, as a viewer, that I didn't know them well enough to care about what was going in their personal lives. Yes, the daughter is cute, but the online dating mom does not move me. Yes, a dying wife is sad, but I was totally distracted by the genuine age difference between Taye Diggs and Anne-Marie Johnson and wondered about that cast decision. I plan on continuing to watch though. It's not awful, and I'm curious to know whodonit.
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I never cared for R&I beyond the two leads, finding the stories just never all that compelling on any level. Major Crimes is better, but it's not as good as The Closer, where you sort of realized that Brenda Leigh Johnson (and Sedgwick's performance) gave the ensemble something to orbit. This isn't a knock against Mary McDonnell, whom I think is a great actor overall, but she's saddled with a character who just isn't as as strong a personality.
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I had the exact opposite reaction to R&I; the leads were meh, but the supporting cast, esp. the cops, were interesting. Not interesting enough to get me past one season though.

Major Crimes...and The Closer...I'm all in for the ensemble. I'll tune in every week just to see what annoyances can be dropped on poor Buzz.
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Exactly. Kyra leaving the cast drained "something" from it.
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