Crimestoppers versus Lawyers: The State of Modern Television Folds Inward Yet Again Tonight

Three major premieres tonight, and all three reflect the current TV tendency to solve crime. Whether this is because we like the comfort of watching square-jawed heroes catch bad guys before we shuffle off to bed or because we like to unwind puzzles or because there’s something in the SAG contract guaranteeing the opportunity to play both a cop and a criminal to each and every union member, a large percentage of shows on every night focus on crime solving. Tuesday’s new offerings don’t offer much new–although they will claim they do–but they do offer some intriguing actors.

“You could watch Kelly Osborne do a bad salsa on Dancing with the Stars, or you could watch a star the likes of Linda Hunt–she alone makes NCIS: Boba Milk worth checking out.”

NCIS offers a cleverly named spin-off, NCIS: Los Angeles, which shall shortly be the recipient of a rude, fast food-based nickname. The NCIS franchise is a police procedural, but they’re Navy cops in some fashion, so that’s different. The cast is intriguing, however, anchored by unfortunate Robin Chris O’Donnell (less interesting) and LL Cool J (more interesting–as Mama told him to knock you out, I assume he’ll be delivering Mark Harmon-approved head slaps) and flavored by Oscar winner Linda Hunt (perhaps better known on TV for The Practice and Carnivale). You could watch Kelly Osborne do a bad salsa on Dancing with the Stars, or you could watch a star the likes of Linda Hunt–she alone makes NCIS: Boba Milk worth checking out.

ABC hands the DwtS lead in audience to the forgotten (yes, they’re avoiding capital letters), a show from the Bruckheimer stable in which a team of dedicated crimesolvers follows up on cold cases where “the forgotten” are unidentified murder victims who will be buried in a potter’s field unless they are identified. What makes the forgotten different from other, similar shows focusing on cold cases, like, I don’t know, Cold Case? The crimesolvers are civilians. Sure, that’ll make all the difference (and will likely make it so much easier to get information and evidence! In TV Land, that is). Said civilians are led into combat by Christian Slater, who, after his split-personality spy show My Own Worst Enemy failed, may have found he liked TV work. I’m not sure I want him on my TV every week, but I’m willing to be persuaded.

CBS volleys the Christian Slater serve with The Good Wife, a show that is much, much different than our previous two entries because it solves crime from the law side of the ledger rather than the order side. In addition, its lead character (played by Julianna Marguiles of ER fame), is not just a lawyer, she’s a politician’s wife. A dirty politician’s wife. Oh, and a district attorney, which means she may as well just wave across the aisle at Sam Waterston [edited: my bad; I read bad intell–she’s defending people pro bono! Maybe George Michael will start singing soon.]. Presumably this means we’ll be getting more detail about the intrepid crimefighers’ personal lives here, but do we want that detail in our tidy procedurals?  The Good Wife may not be blazing new ground, but it’s bringing a lot of firepower with a cast that is, at first glance, at least, more intriguing than the forgotten‘s : in addition to Marguiles, we’ll be treated to Josh Charles (Sports Night–yay!). Christine Baranski (Cybill, Welcome to New York), Matt Czuchry (Gilmore Girls, Friday Night Lights), Chris Noth (Law & Order, Sex and the City), and by far my favorite, Christine Willes. Yes, Dead Like Me‘s Delores Herbig (“her big brown eyes”) and Reaper‘s DMV demon Gladys is likely to bring more pep to these proceedings than the entire case docket. I’d tune in just for her. NCIS: West Coast Style on CBS at 9pm Eastern followed by The Good Wife at 10; the forgotten (still missing its caps) airs on ABC at 10pm Eastern.