Body of Proof: Season 1

Body of ProofIt’s important that I explain why I was watching this series. You see, thanks to an abundance of free time at the moment I actually find myself running a little short on things to watch. I’ve also just got a new book of Killer Sodukus and need something fairly innocuous to put on while I’m working my way through that . One evening, after clearing off my Sky+ backlog, I went rummaging around on the Lovefilm Instant service to see what I can find and stumbled over Body of Proof. I went back and had a look at my pilot review and noted that although I wasn’t enthused enough to seek it out at the time, I thought it might be ok. On top of all that, the first season is only 9 episodes long, so it wasn’t exactly a huge commitment.

That’s a pretty lengthy insight into my unexciting life, but it’s important that you understand that. Because even given those low ambition reasons for watching, and the fact that my brain was half occupied with soduku… it’s impressive that Body of Proof was still so deeply unsatisfying.

The biggest problem with the whole thing is the quality of the mysteries. The most basic requirement of a procedural show is that the cases make sense. Yes, to be successful you need characters and originality etc, but if your cases are stupid, you are sunk before you even start. It’s not like I even need the cases to be memorable (god knows I watch enough CSI and NCIS), but the ones on Body of Proof are just plain shabby. Aside from the phenomenal reliance on our hero spotting a microscopic clue, or each victim or accused having some obscurely specific medical complaint, almost every episode had a gaping error in it. One case was immediately ruled a murder rather than a suicide because the victim had been shot in the head twice (admittedly tricky to do yourself) and then utterly failed to have that happen in the eventual flashback to the murder. Barely an episode went by when something wasn’t either dropped in the middle, or introduced unexpectedly.

Everything was just so frustratingly fake. The female medical examiners are always in form fitting designer dresses and ludicrously high heals, no matter where the body is. One of the flunkies is a borderline offensive parody of a self-righteous black woman (although he’s male) doing the whole “oh no you di’nt just go there!”, while the other is the usual tedious caricature geek with glasses and awkwardness. The detectives are two good actors (Sonja Sohn of The Wire and John Carroll Lynch of ‘you’ll know him when you see him’) doing their best with the clichés they’ve been given, but even their attempts to deliver subtlety and humour with body language and delivery cannot completely overcome the terrible dialogue.

I guess I should comment on Dana Delany as it’s really her show, but I don’t really know what to say, because talented though she is, she can’t fight her way through the fact that this show just isn’t very good. I came to like the stuff with her daughter and when she got a chance to play human, but the rest of the time the character she was too much of a superhero, a medical examiner who can see the tiniest details and identify fungus at just a single glance.

Even as something that I only wanted to pay attention to with half my brain, it still managed to be unsatisfying. The actors deserve better. My soduku book deserved better. It will take a special kind of boredom to make me watch season 2.

Body of Proof is available on Lovefilm Instant (give me a shout if you’d like a free trial link) and probably other on demand services too, or on dvd

Pilot Review: Body of Proof

Dr Megan Hunt was a high flying neurosurgeon, all driven and work obsessed but then she had an accident and was no longer able to operate. So she’s become a really bitter and obnoxious medical examiner spending more time connecting with her dead patients than she ever did with her living ones, or with her own family.

I’m not sure why this pilot has been held back so long. March is a funny time to launch something, everything else is building up for the end of their season, or just desperately trying to not get steam-rollered by the massive American Idol and Dancing With the Stars that monopolise the spring ratings. But here it is, Body of Proof, generally described as a ‘vehicle’ for Dana Delany (Desperate Housewives), meaning it’s a show designed entirely around her and all the other characters are just there to facilitate the plot and give her someone to rant at. Think House, but with better hair.

House has clearly made writers realise that it’s possible to create an obnoxious character and yet still have the audience root for them. Hunt is a bit of a cow – rude and abrasive, ignoring the rules of her job and polite society in a single minded drive to get to the answer. One of the things that this actually does BETTER than House is that the people around her that know her, kind of accept that. On House, particularly early on, everyone told House that he should change his methods, Cuddy shouting and stomping her high heels at him every time he did something crazy sounding. But by the end of each episode, the nay-sayers looked sheepish, only to repeat the rigmarole the following week. Why did they either not learn that he would be vindicated in the end, OR just sack him outright? Body of Proof sensibly confronts that, Dr Hunt’s boss smiles knowingly and lets her get on with it, Hunt herself says “you may not like my methods, but you’ll like my results”. It’s a lot more satisfying than watch people have the same argument over and over.

Unfortunately the writers don’t have quite the strength of their convictions that the House writers do. There’s almost an equal balance between the amount of time spent showing how hard the character is, and the amount spent trying to soften and explain those edges. Her family fell victim to her demanding previous career and now that she’s lost the job , she wants her family back. But of course that’s not easy, so there’s plenty of time spent staring mopingly at pictures and formulating speeches. It kind of works, but at the same time feels a bit too much like an apology.

Critics seem to be a bit harsh on this at the moment. I suspect the comparisons with House may have been too much for them, it’s not House, but then unlike most critics I don’t actually think House is that great a show either. Yes, there is better stuff out there, but Dana Delaney is a talented and interesting actress and this was a lot better than an awful lot of the procedural pilots I’ve seen in the last couple of years.

Other reviews
TV Addict: From its overtly formulaic write-by-numbers nature, to its insistence on beating you over the head with its premise, BODY OF PROOF just about encapsulates everything that is wrong with the way modern day network television works.

TV Squad : Despite all the show’s flaws, she makes some quieter emotional moments work, thanks to her undeniable presence and skills. The by-the-numbers vehicle that has been constructed around her isn’t worthy of her talent, however.

Links: Official site, imdb, TV.com, wikiepdia