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With the official start of the 2005-06 season less than two months away, the drumbeats have begun by the networks to tout their new comedies and dramas. What should you keep your eye out for? What should you avoid at all costs? While it's still a little early for full reviews (some recasting and reshooting will be done on a good chunk of them), we thought we'd spend the next month previewing what's in store for the upcoming season. Each day we'll look at two of the 47 new series set to premiere this season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot.
There's no particular order here, just whatever's next on the stack of tapes. So without further ado, here's today's entries:
CRIMINAL MINDS (CBS)
(Wednesdays at 9:00/8:00c this fall)
The network's description: "CRIMINAL MINDS (Wednesday, 9:00 PM) stars Emmy and Tony Award winner Mandy Patinkin ("Chicago Hope"), Thomas Gibson ("Dharma & Greg") and Daytime Emmy Award winner Shemar Moore ("The Young and the Restless") in a suspense thriller about an elite squad of FBI profilers who analyze the country's most twisted criminal minds, anticipating their next move before they strike again. Each member of the team brings their own area of expertise to the table as they pinpoint predators' motivations and identify their emotional triggers in order to stop them. Matthew Gubler ("The Life Aquatic") and Lola Glaudini ("The Sopranos") also star."
What did they leave out: Surprisingly despite such a thin description, that's more or less it.
The plot in a nutshell: Spec. Agent Jason Donovan (Mandy Patinkin) is the leader of the F.B.I.'s Behavioral Analysis Unit (B.A.U.), an elite squad of F.B.I. agents that's called in to track down the most twisted, deviant criminal minds. The opening case involves a man in Seattle (D.J. Qualls, in a surprisingly creepy turn) who's apparently been kidnapping women and killing them a few days later. Donovan's team includes family man Aaron "Hotch" Hotchner (Thomas Gibson), the ambitious Elle Greenaway (Lola Glaudini), the charming Derek Morgan (Shemar Moore) and the young genius, Dr. Daniel Reed (Matthew Gubler). As is always the case for overachieving psychopaths, Qualls's character is a self-professed fan of the legendary Donovan's work, having read all his books on profiling serial killers. Through him and the other characters we learn that Donovan has only recently return to field work, as he still hasn't completely recovered from an incident in which he watched a dozen people die in a shrapnel bomb. Nevertheless, he remains an almost godlike figure to his team as they work to find the latest abductee before it's too late.
What works: Patinkin not surprisingly raises the bar on this decidedly average procedural as the haunted Agent Donovan while Gubler's character - practically a boy amongst a group of men - adds some much needed flavor to Donovan's relatively bland team.
What doesn't: This is very much a by-the-numbers procedural featuring all the serial killer clich�s that have been beat to death by television and movies in recent years. It's only through the actors (Patinkin, Qualls, etc.) that it elevates itself to any sort of watchability. Nevertheless, that aspect is still very much just a fresh coat of paint on an increasingly overpopulated genre. The case here feels completely interchangeable between the other new procedurals this season ("Killer Instinct," "The Evidence," etc.) not to mention the "C.S.I." franchise. The only honest separation between its brethren is a unexpectedly bizarre closing moment, that I won't spoil here. In any case, one still wonders what the motivation is for any sort of appointment viewing as you could just as easily see this type of show done better elsewhere.
The challenges ahead: Will "Minds" get lost among the sea of new and returning procedurals this season? And against "Lost" on ABC no less? We'll find out this fall on CBS.