Saturday, March 10, 2007

TV review: Raines

I like ghost stories. I'm not talking about the scary stuff, though; I'm talking about when spirits help solve crimes, for instance.

So, I'm perfectly set up for Raines, the new NBC drama that premieres on March 15th. (You can watch it beforehand, as I did, at Michael Raines, played by Jeff Goldblum, is a detective returning to work at LAPD for the first time after three months; he and his partner Charlie were hit in a shoot-out. Charlie is apparently disabled; he uses a cane and is not working. So when Raines catches the case of young woman found shot in the back in a parking lot, he works it alone.

Raines first stop is the victim's apartment, where he comes across a young woman. "Are you her sister?" he asks. Raines is alarmed when she tells him she is Sandy Budreau, the victim. Afterward, he checks in with Charlie, who reminds him that he always talked to the victims. "Know the victim, find the killer, remember?" It's just that in the past Charlie was in the car with him, and the victims didn't appear in the flesh and talk back.

Raines admits to Charlie he's hallucinating, and his colleagues express concern about how much he's talking to himself. And it is to himself he talks. Although he sees Sandy, she doesn't know any more than he does and constantly reminds him of the fact, or turns questions back on him. "Why?" he asks. "Why do you think?" she responds.

Raines tries to take the easy route in solving the crime, going on circumstantial evidence, but Sandy does not go away. "Maybe you haven't solved the crime to your satisfaction," says Charlie. Indeed. With the help of his hallucination, Raines pushes on, and, of course, he does solve the crime. Even so, Sandy doesn't leave him. "Is there something else I can do you for you?" he asks. Naturally there is one more thing. And one more surprise.

You'd think a someone who sees dead people might be passé. I mean, Haley Joel Osmet did it so well in The Sixth Sense, and the brilliant HBO series Six Feet Under made artful use of dead characters. Not to mention that the television show Medium (also on NBC), in which a detective dreams of victims, has been on the air for many years now. So what does Raines have to offer? What makes it different? Aside from the fact that it's not actual ghosts he sees.

The character for one. Smart, eccentric, and sarcastic, he's kind of a cross between Adrian Monk and Alison Dubois with a dash of Gregory House. Raines' unique twist is that he wanted to be a writer, so even though he ended up a cop, he has a writer's imagination; characters (read dead people) come alive for him.

Jeff Goldblum for another. Goldblum is a well-respected actor, and he must have seen something in the script for him to take his first TV gig in over 25 years. (Check out the nice bio they have at NBC or better yet, Jeff's own website.) Unlike his energetic roles in such films as Jurassic Park or Independence Day, Goldblum gives Raines a low-key quirkiness rather than a frenetic presence.

The creator of the series and writer of the pilot episode is Canadian screen writer Graham Yost, who is known for the movies Speed, Broken Arrow and Hard Rain. Yost does a good job with the script, laying out the series premise and keeping the episode's mystery alive with a not-what-it-seems plot. The dialogue moves at a goodly pace and held some laugh-out-loud moments.

The supporting cast has promise, although it's hard to tell from the pilot if they will work well as an ensemble. (They include Matt Craven as Captain Daniel Lewis, Linda Park as Officer Michelle Lance, and Nicole Sullivan as Carolyn Crumley, a civilian employee at the police department.) Maybe I’m hallucinating, but given the offbeat premise and the promise of Jeff Goldblum communing with the dead, I think Raines is a show to watch.

Cross-posted to Blogcritics.

No comments: