Judge Clark Douglas has a body made of proof and fat.
Get away with murder? Over their dead bodies.
"This body contains all the proof I need."
Facts of the Case
Years ago, a respected neurologist named Megan Hunt (Dana Delaney, Desperate Housewives) was fired from her job after she accidentally killed a patient. Now, she's been reduced to the lowly position of overqualified medical examiner; using her vast supply of knowledge to solve cases and bring bad guys to justice. Megan has minimal tolerance for things like The Rulebook (the most persistently-ignored book in all of pop culture), meaning that sometimes she gets in trouble for doing things her own way. Her methods may be questionable, but…wait for it…she always gets the job done. Alternately aiding and hindering Megan are law enforcement folks like Detective Bud Morris (John Carroll Lynch, Fargo) and Detective Samantha Baker (Sonja Sohn, The Wire), medical professionals like Dr. Curtis Brumfield (Windell Middlebrooks, Scrubs), Dr. Ethan Gross (Geoffrey Arend, Devil) and Dr. Kate Murphy (Jeri Ryan, Star Trek: Voyager), and combination law enforcement/medical professional people like Peter Dunlop (Nicholas Bishop, Walking On Water).
Imagine that someone created a computer designed for the sole purpose of developing a new television show. If you were to feed that computer a carefully-assembled collection of Nielsen ratings, extensive television history, current TV trends, viewer satisfaction polls and episodes of all the hit shows of the past decade, I'm almost positive that the computer would spit out something awfully similar to Body of Proof. This series doesn't feel like a story anyone would be compelled to tell so much as a mathematical formula designed to generate ratings. It's certainly not the worst show I've seen lately, but it's uninspired to the point of being hilarious at times.
Everything about this series comes perilously close to feeling like a parody of generic network television series. Body of Proof is one of those pun titles so obvious and corny that I'm honestly amazed no one thought to use it until 2011. The very premise of the show seems like the TV equivalent of baconnaisse: it combines two things we seemingly can't get enough of into one hour of awesome. It's a police drama and a medical drama! She's a cop and a doctor! She throws out the medical rulebook and the cop rulebook! She'll save somebody's life and catch a murderer!
Alongside these professional clichés are a host of personal ones. Naturally, Delaney's great at her job, but terrible at managing her personal life. How many times have we seen that show, huh? Of course she has some dark moments in her past that the series will offer teasing flashbacks to every now and then. Of course she has a resentful teenage daughter that she's trying to reconnect with. Of course she's incredibly awkward when it comes to dealing with real-world practicalities that don't involve her profession. Of course all of her co-workers have a love/hate relationship with her. The cutesy episodic storylines involving Delaney and the two detectives go something like this:
Detective #1: I'm going to interrogate this suspect. You stay out of this, Megan. Suspect, did you commit that crime?
Suspect: Nah, man.
Megan: You did commit that crime, you liar!
Detective #1: Shut up, Megan! I told you to stay out of this. Go back to looking at dead bodies.
Detective #2: Not cool, Megan.
Megan: Oh yeah? Well, what about this overlooked piece of evidence I just found that proves this suspect is guilty?
Suspect: What? Crap. Yeah, I did it.
Detective #1: Grrr. Nice work, Megan.
Detective #2: Yeah, I'm really impressed. But next time, mind your own business.
And so it goes, for the entire duration of this first season. Some stories are more involving than others, but none manage to rise above the conventions of standard-issue sock-folding television. The series is pretty bad about requiring its characters to engage in lame TV-speak instead of letting them act like human beings. Everyone has a snarky comeback line for any given situation, information is conveyed via dramatic monologue and characters are fond of telling each other things everyone in the conversation already knows for the sake of getting the audience back up to speed.
The bright spot in all of this is Delany, whose world-weary work is a good deal more high-quality than the show really deserves. She's not just pulling a David Caruso here; she really wants to make you believe she believes those terrible lines of dialogue she's given. Delany is a strong anchor for the series to build around, but the show just hasn't done a whole lot of building yet. There's a strong supporting cast in place (Lynch, Ryan and Sohn in particular are very capable actors), but thus far most of them seem to have little to do except for a) provide snippets of comic relief, b) bark at Delaney, or c) marvel at Delaney's abilities.
Body of Proof: The Complete First Season looks solid on DVD, offering sturdy detail, warm flesh tones and deep blacks. There's not much going on to distinguish this from any other television procedural, but that's hardly a surprise. Audio is also satisfactory, though this is roughly the 1,529,243rd show to employ the same sort of thump n' jangle underscore we hear on nearly every program of this sort. Supplements include two brief featurettes ("Examining the Proof" and "If Looks Could Kill") and a gag reel.
ABC may have done a bit of cynical programming with this blatant attempt at capturing the successful CBS procedural formula, but their efforts certainly paid off: Body of Proof was ABC's highest-rated scripted series during its first season, and the only scripted shows which beat it were five different CBS procedurals (in case you're curious: NCIS, NCIS Los Angeles, The Mentalist, Criminal Minds and CSI). It's pretty mediocre television, but it's clearly exactly what America wants. I won't be tuning in for season two, but if this sort of thing floats your boat, have at it.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ABC Studios
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