Dana Delany adds a little spice to the formulaic crime procedural 'Body of Proof'
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When I watched ABC's "Body of Proof" pilot last summer, lead character Dr. Megan Hunt (Dana Delany) came across as a fairly unsympathetic, cold character.
Eight months later, Dr. Hunt seems less shrill. Is that because I know what to expect or because of tweaks made to the pilot episode (an ABC representative acknowledged some minor re-shooting of scenes)?
Either way, "Body of Proof" (10 p.m. Tuesday, WTAE) seems less likely to drive viewers away, at least not viewers content with whodunit crime procedurals. "Body of Proof" fits neatly and blandly in that tired category.
Starring: Dana Delany.
The show does benefit from a strong central character played by the always engaging Ms. Delany. In some ways, Dr. Megan Hunt brings the actress full circle. Dr. Hunt is closest in temperament to nurse Colleen McMurphy, the character Ms. Delany brought to life in the excellent, late-'80s ABC drama "China Beach." But where "China Beach" was a serial, "Body of Proof" is paint-by-number episodic.
A body turns up, Philadelphia medical examiner Hunt and medical investigator Peter Dunlop (Geoffrey Arend) show up at the crime scene and bump heads with police detectives Samantha Baker (Sonja Sohn, "The Wire") and Bud Morris (John Carroll Lynch). Then Dr. Hunt begins her own sleuthing, eventually ruffling feathers at her workplace and catching flak from her boss, Dr. Kate Murphy (Jeri Ryan, "Star Trek: Voyager"), before solving the case by the end of the hour.
If it sounds like "Quincy" or "Crossing Jordan" or "Rizzoli & Isles," that's because it is like those predecessor series.
In addition to Ms. Delany, "Body of Proof" benefits from an admirable supporting cast. Ms. Ryan isn't given much to do in the pilot but she does don scrubs in a future episode. Ms. Sohn is a welcome sight for fans of "The Wire," but those viewers might feel sorry to see her go from such a dense, smart show as that HBO series to material that's much less challenging for viewers and presumably for the actors, too.
"Body of Proof" was created by Christopher Murphey (writer of the recent "Karate Kid" remake), who wrote this week's premiere and attempts to freshen up the proceedings by giving Dr. Hunt a back story that allows for a more complicated character at the show's center.
In Tuesday's premiere, viewers learn about Dr. Hunt's past. She was a top neurosurgeon until she was injured in a car accident. After that, she tried to operate again but wound up killing a patient. Now she's a medical examiner, she says, because, "You can't kill somebody if they're already dead."
On top of that, Dr. Hunt has a frosty relationship with her ex-husband and she's somewhat estranged from her teenage daughter.
"I lost my child to my career and then I lost my career," Dr. Hunt says, noting that if a wife works 18-hour days she's an "absentee mother" but a father who does the same is a "good provider." It's a keen observation and opens up an interesting area to explore, but after the "Body of Proof" pilot, many of Dr. Hunt's edges soften.
In one upcoming episode, Dr. Hunt's daughter shadows her at work and the episode's tone -- murder investigation aside -- is much lighter than the pilot. Control freak that she is, Dr. Hunt tries to control her colleagues; they don't fall in line and Dr. Hunt delivers disapproving glares but in a more humorous context than her selfish, haughty demeanor in the pilot.
This episode also offers an opportunity for Ms. Delany to show her watery-eyed, more vulnerable side, the same acting techniques she used on "China Beach" when tough cookie McMurphy would reveal cracks in her hard shell. But on "China Beach" seeing that softer side felt earned; on "Body of Proof," it seems more calculated.
What's more, this episode sacrifices Dr. Hunt's dark sense of humor, one of her more redeeming qualities in the pilot.
It's understandable that the powers that be behind the series would want their lead character to be less off-putting. As a viewer, I wanted to like Dr. Hunt more than I initially did. The problem with toning her down is that it means diluting the only thing that distinguishes "Body of Proof" from all the other crime procedurals, and what's left is a generic show with an above-average star.
First Published March 27, 2011 12:00 am