Don't be surprised if you see more promotion for TNT's upcoming world-after-a-pandemic drama "The Last Ship" (9 p.m. June 22) than you do for TNT's homicide investigation drama "Murder in the First" (10 tonight after the return of "Major Crimes").
It's questionable whether "Murder" would have been picked up by TNT if it was in development now after TNT recently announced its intention to try to skew younger; "Murder in the First" is decidedly old-school.
In some ways, "Murder in the First," from newcomer writer Eric Lodal and executive producer Steven Bochco, is a retread of Mr. Bochco's "Murder One" (1995-97, ABC), which was revolutionary in its day because it followed a single murder case over its first season. That style of serialized storytelling is now so much the norm that this aspect of "Murder in the First" is unexceptional.
While "Murder One" stuck pretty close to its murder case and the lawyers involved, "Murder in the First" goes home with its lead characters, who are San Francisco homicide detectives Terry English (Taye Diggs, "Private Practice") and Hildy Mulligan (Kathleen Robertson, "Boss").
Each of them has a personal burden of sorts to bear -- Terry's wife (Anne-Marie Johnson) is dying of cancer; Hildy is a disorganized single mom -- that bleeds into their work life to varying degrees. But the show's primary focus remains the murder of a junkie, who leaves behind an iPad with a blackmail email that has been sent to wealthy tech mogul Erich Blunt (Tom Felton, who played bad before as Draco Malfoy in the "Harry Potter" films).
Blunt lives up to his surname, of course, revealing himself to be a jerky narcissist who may be a genius, or he may be a conniver who stole a key component of technology from a flunky.
By the end of the pilot, another character connected to Blunt is found dead, which further points the finger at the wealthy geek, although those early indications probably suggest he won't ultimately be revealed as the killer by the end of the show's 10-episode first season.
The premiere episode of "Murder in the First" is somewhat dull, particularly anytime the plot strays from the case to the home lives of the detectives. Viewers just haven't spent enough time with either one this early in the show's run to care about these characters. Their predicaments, while sometime sad, seem like the same trials and tribulations viewers have seen TV characters endure before.
The murder case offers nothing new under the TV sun, either. It's not bad, but the way it's presented makes it feel like a relic.
Viewers nostalgic kick for single-case crime dramas of the late 1990s might find something to like here, but for viewers seeking a more contemporary style of storytelling, there are no TV firsts in "Murder in the First."