Judge Jim Thomas' body is full of alibi.
No Guts. No Glory.
When the network upfronts unveil the schedules for the upcoming fall schedule, you can pretty much count on two or three new procedurals. Just as cop shows were all over the place in the '70s, these days it's procedurals. The granddaddy of the forensic procedurals, Quincy, M.E., debuted back in 1976, but it was thought of as a Jack Klugman show, not a procedural.Law & Order debuted in 1990. Once it started spitting out successful spinoffs like a Pez dispenser, everyone else piled on, bringing forth CSI's many incarnations and its progeny, including Criminal Minds, NCIS, and a legion of other shows that didn't quite hit the mark.
One such show is today's defendant. Body of Proof turned up as a late-season tryout in 2011. The first abbreviated season did just well enough to warrant a full second season, but it didn't do quite as well, and as a result, the third season got the dreaded thirteen-episode commitment. The cast was retooled prior to the third season, but the ratings never materialized, and so it got the hook. ABC Studio brings us Body of Proof: The Complete Third Season, and it's pretty clear why the show never quite got a foothold: It's not so much that it does a bunch of things wrong; it's more that it just doesn't do that much that is right.
Megan Hunt (Dana Delany, China Beach) was a brilliant neurosurgeon until she suffered nerve damage to one of her hands in a car accident. No longer able to perform surgery on the living, she now works as a medical examiner in Philadelphia, constantly butting heads with her superior, Kate Murphy (Jeri Ryan, Star Trek: Voyager). Season Two ended with Megan's partner dying in her arms after a vicious attack; Season Three picks up with Megan still dealing with that loss. Now she finds herself working alongside Detective Tommy Sullivan (Mark Valley, Fringe), a former NYPD detective with whom Megan was romantically involved years ago.
The show has a great cast, great production values, and, as the show loved to point out, great medical advisors who made sure that all the science was accurate. What they didn't have were writers who could come up with original dialogue. I lost track of the number of times I predicted the snappy comeback or veiled threat tossed off by a character. When the dialogue is that stale, it doesn't matter if the story itself is good or not (and the quality of the stories vary wildly), it will never rise above simple mediocrity. Hell, they get both Ray Wise (Reaper) and Michael Nouri (NCIS) guest starring in the same episode ("Mob Mentality"), and, apart from an unexpectedly restrained turn by Wise, it still wasn't particularly memorable, because there are so many different character threads that the episode lacks focus.
Too often, things simply don't make sense—beyond Megan's tendency to invite herself into victim interviews, suspect interrogations, etc. It is such a problem that it makes the character a little annoying; you need a certain panache to pull off that sort of thing (see House, M.D. for details). Here, though, you half hope someone will take Megan down a peg. Let her barge into one of Leroy Gibbs' interrogations on NCIS and maybe she'll learn some boundaries. As I said, things just don't make sense. Kurtwood Smith (That '70s Show) pops up late in the season in an apparent homage to Anthony Hopkins or Brian Cox as Hannibal Lecter, but tonally Smith's scene clashes with the rest of the episode, and does nothing to advance the plot that couldn't have been accomplished much easier. In another episode, a wounded drug smuggler's attempts to drug an air marshal result in a plane crash and over fifty deaths; Tommy reassures her, saying, "You made some bad choices." There's an ongoing plotline regarding the death of Megan's father; had the plot been gradually developed over the course of the season, it might have been compelling, but the resolution, in the season finale, doesn't quite work. It would have been interesting to find out if they had planned something more elaborate had they been picked up for a full season, but what we end up with is 90 minutes of clichés crammed into a 45-minute episode. On occasion there are some interesting ideas, such as a psychologist who might be more than he seems, but the plot and character development are so ham-handed that the plot twists are telegraphed by the second commercial break.
The cast tries, I'll give them that; but there's only so much they can do with the weak dialogue. Furthermore, the chemistry between Delany and Valley is tepid at best—she has many more sparks with Luke Perry, who has a recurring role as the Philly health commissioner.
Technically, the disc is…there. Colors are a tad over saturated, images are somewhat inconsistent—contrast levels bounce around at times, but there is very little color bleeding. Audio is solid, with good use of all channels, particularly with crowd scenes and ambient noise. There are a handful of brief (under five minutes each) behind the scenes featurettes, none of which are overly revelatory, and a moderately amusing gag reel.
Trivia: The show was originally titled Body of Evidence; presumably they decided to change the title when someone remembered the unmitigated train wreck that was the Madonna/Willem Defoe thriller Body of Evidence.
You may experience an odd sense of déjà vu when watching Body of
Proof. We've seen it all on other shows. More to the point, we've seen it
all done better.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ABC Studios
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