Paramount // 2011 // 539 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // September 1st, 2011
A powerhouse cast takes on unforgettable cases!
"Let's fill in the blanks, people!"
The Behavioral Analysis Unit (or BAU) is one of the FBI's "Red Cells," a group that works outside the bureaucracy of the agency and reports only to the F.B.I. director (Richard Schiff, The West Wing). The team is lead by the grim, anti-authoritarian Sam Cooper (Forest Whitaker, Repo Men), who is aided by the grim ex-convict John "Prophet" Sims (Michael Kelly, The Sopranos), the grim techo-whiz Penelope Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness, Criminal Minds), the grim tough gal Gina LaSalle (Beau Garrett, Tron: Legacy), the grim ex-British Special Ops soldier Mick Rawson (Matt Ryan, Layer Cake), and the grim audience surrogate Beth Griffith (Janeane Garofalo, Wet Hot American Summer). Together, these people use their psychological expertise to track down a variety of psychopaths.
It often seems only thing CBS loves more than crime dramas is creating spin-offs of its many crime dramas. After all, this is the network that is currently airing CSI: NY, CSI: Miami and NCIS Los Angeles (for that matter, even the original NCIS is a JAG spin-off). Though spin-offs are frequently very different beasts from the shows which spawned them, the CBS crime show formula is pretty simple: do the exact same thing as the flagship show, but with some new faces and locations. Perhaps it was inevitable that CBS would eventually attempt to expand its critically panned yet high-rated Criminal Minds into a larger franchise. Enter Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior (which might as well be called The Way Criminals Think: The Way Criminals Behave).
I didn't request this set for review, as most of CBS' dramatic programming does very little for me (save for the lightweight but entertaining reboot of Hawaii Five-O and the thoughtful, well-crafted The Good Wife). Even so, I wasn't exactly disappointed to receive the assignment. After all, Forest Whitaker's previous significant television outing (his extended guess starring turn on The Shield) was magnificent and the supporting cast certainly included some talented folks. Surely the show would be at least moderately enjoyable? Sadly, this wheezy program turns out to be abominably exploitative at worst and rather dull at best.
Though there are quite a few crime shows on television at the moment (or at any given moment since the medium began), Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior somehow manages to be a textbook example of everything that's wrong with the genre without managing to capture any of its redeeming qualities. If you ever need to write an essay on the negative aspects of American television, I suggest picking any episode of this program as the foundation of your case.
Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior is so poorly written (either due to network-driven cynicism or basic lack of ability among the writers, though I suspect the former) that it often plays as a parody of gritty network crime shows. It's only takes two episodes for a violent criminal to smile at Whitaker and say, without a hint of irony, "We're the same, you and me. Stop pretending we're not." Whitaker then proceeds to launch into a dramatic monologue that he simply can't sell no matter how valiantly he tries -- even allowing a single tear to roll down his cheek at a precisely timed dramatic moment completely fails to make the scene seem anything less than ridiculous. The dialogue is simply too wretchedly overcooked for any actor to sell. Consider the following exchange between Whitaker and one of his suspects:
Suspect: Do you believe in God? There's a symbol on your holster. It's Samuel. He's an angel. Angels only exist in servitude of God.
Whitaker: And you, Marcus, name derived from Marchosius, an angel who fell from heaven and became a demon. Is that you?
To be sure, the acting is bad all around, but very few people have the ability to turn bad material into something resembling a respectable performance (here's looking at you, Jeremy Irons). Additionally, the actors haven't been given characters to play. Rather, they've each been given a generic one-note trait and the direction that they must not demonstrate charm or a sense of humor. Basically, it's one tedious character with six different faces (hey, kind of like a CBS crime show spin-off).
The formulaic banality of Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior is bad enough, but the problem is compounded by the manner in which the show so consistently wallows in cheap exploitation material. While many crime shows attempt to find bad guys and deal with the aftermath of crimes, Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior feeds us a steady diet of scenes in which we witness the criminal of the week engaging in all sorts of heinous behavior: frightening little girls he later plans to murder and rape, emotionally manipulating women into murdering someone else...all that good stuff. This show shamelessly feeds lowest-common-denominator desires to revel in this rubbish while self-righteously pretending to be above it all and spending a generous amount of time asking its characters to act outraged at all of this awfulness. They should be outraged at CBS for putting them on such a god-awful program. Thankfully, the series ended after 13 episodes (all of which are included in this collection).
This 4-disc set offers a typically polished television show transfer, though there are a number of scenes that look a bit soft (this is entirely due to the manner in which is was shot, however). Audio is okay, though the music ranges from irritatingly generic thump 'n bump crime show music (I swear, they're using the same four cues on about sixty different shows right now) to embarrassingly overblown melodies that come out of nowhere (such as a large-scale choral piece that plays during the aforementioned Whitaker monologue) to oddly-employed song selections (one episode opens with Whitaker riding a motorcycle to the strains of The Rolling Stones' "Street Fighting Man"). Supplements are atypically generous for a cancelled television show, as you get a handful of audio commentaries with assorted cast and crew members, several featurettes ("Alternate Reality: The New Criminal Minds," "Inside the Red Cell," "The Profiler," "House of Corpses" and "Loved Ones"), a gag reel (nice to know these actors do smile on occasion), some deleted scenes and the spin-off episode of Criminal Minds, which introduced the characters. For some reason, this collection is dubbed "The DVD Edition" instead of "The First Season" or "The Complete Series." Pay no mind to that silliness.
Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior is one of the crummiest, most formulaic crime shows a network crowded with crummy, formulaic crime shows has produced. It's a waste of Forest Whitaker's talents and of your time.
Review content copyright © 2011 Clark Douglas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 539 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Episode Commentaries
* Deleted Scenes
* Gag Reels
* Bonus Episode