Summer 2013 Review: Motive

14 Jun

It's all in the eyes.  Or something.

Of all the generic police procedurals in the world, Motive may be the most generic yet.  Motive debuted recently on ABC, but it aired in its native Canada earlier in 2013.  Its one hook which is theoretically supposed to separate it from the glut of police procedurals on television is encapsulated in its title.  Like in Law & Order: Criminal Intent, the viewer learns the killer right at the start of the episode.  In fact, to make these easier for the visual learners amongst us, some nifty writing appears on screen labeling “The Killer” and “The Victim” and lingers on the screen for a moment so that we don’t miss it.  What kind of suspense is there then, if we already know the heart of any mystery, the whodunit? Ah!  It lies in, if you haven’t been able to figure it out yet, the motive!  As the police slowly piece together the crime and identify the culprit, the last piece of information to expose itself is the reason for the crime.

The crime itself in the pilot is painfully uninteresting, as if the eventual motive, which is anticlimactic at best.  The least you can expect from a procedural are some decent murder stories, especially in the pilot, which is your first and biggest showcase to the world. A teen outcast kills a popular teacher.  There are some red herrings; the police briefly believe the wife did it, because she was sleeping around, and that the kid’s friend did, but these diversions lack suspense entirely because we know who did it, and because it’s a police procedural, so we know there’s no chance they’re going to end up accusing the wrong person.  It turns out he did it because he had some weed and a notebook with lots of outcast-y thoughts, like wanting to hurt other students and such, and the teacher found it.  The kid snuck into the teacher’s house to grab it back, but when the teacher caught him and was about to call the police, the kid hit him over the head with a trophy.  It really was one of the more boring TV murders I’ve seen recently.

As per police procedural standards, our lead detective, played by former Zeljko Ivanek nominee and canuck Kristin Lehman, is smarter than the average cop. She has a number of gut instincts which end up all being correct, even when her partner points out that the evidence leads in a different direction.  She continues to sniff out incorrect leads and misdirection.  There’s lots of witty banter between her, her partner, and the new guy, whose taking notes on her behavior. Both her and her partner give the new guy tasks and advice.  There are also bizarre sections of the episode showing her cool mom relationship with her teenage son, as she watches him win a car race.  I have absolutely no idea how these fit into the scope of the show or why these sections are here, but you get to him and his girlfriend and his mom let him drive her car.

To say that it’s bad really misses the point.  It’s not good, but it’s taken genenicism (not a word, I know) to a new level.  It’s mind-blowingly bland.  You wouldn’t cringe after watching it.  You would just not realize you were watching anything.

Before I go, I should note that former New Kid on the Block Joey McIntyre plays the deceased high school teacher.  Also, former Jim Carey wife Lauren Holly plays the coroner and the actor who portrayed 24 agent Curtis Manning, Roger Cross, plays a cop.

Will I watch it again?  No.  Or, if I have nothing else to do for years, and I run out of every Law & Order, CSI, NCIS, and Criminal Minds, and am looking for more.  All this says to me is that there’s a lot of space to fill on television and the easiest way to do it is with police procedurals.

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