You've got to love it when people are willing to mix it up a little. Let's face it; the traditional cop show has felt tired for years. Most are so formulaic that the crimes almost solve themselves.
But with "Motive," a new series premiering Monday, May 20, on ABC, the formula has been set on its ear. Creator and executive producer Daniel Cerone ( "The Mentalist," "Dexter"), likes to say that most cop shows tend to be whodunits, while "Motive," as the name suggests, tends to be more of a whydunit. And with Kristin Lehman ( "The Killing") starring as Detective Angie Flynn, it's a mustwatchit.
"I always wanted to create a series where you reveal the killer in the tease -- hearkening back to 'Columbo,' which is considered the granddaddy of all detectives, and basically the whole first act was showing the kill," Cerone says. "I've always been fascinated with that model. But I was always reluctant to pitch it because there is the stumbling block, because if you reveal the killer, then where's the mystery?"
Good point. But one of the biggest problems with traditional crime series is that arguably the most exciting thing in any episode has already happened at the start of the show, and it happened off-screen: the murder.
By opening "Motive" with two little vignettes that introduce both the killer and the victim, viewers get the opportunity to play the game of "When did they do it? Why did they do it? And how did they do it?" Best of all, thanks to those initial introductions, we are actually drawn into their lives and feel much more of a vested interest than is usually the case in a crime drama.
"Giving it away doesn't change how compelling it is so that I don't want to know why this happened," says Lehman.
Going back to the "Columbo" mold, when you know who the killer is, you have to make the game a lot more fun, says Cerone.
"With 'Columbo,' the fun was sort of watching this rumpled character slowly break down these killers and sort of prey upon their egos and catch them off guard. So for me, I wanted to try and find a character who was fun to watch but at other times people might dismiss because she is a beautiful woman."
Detective Flynn was originally conceived as a "wrong side of the tracks" sort of character, who ran with the wrong crowd when she was younger. She was supposed to be someone who was easy to overlook.
"But Kristin -- who we feel like we've scored with -- brings a little bit more sophistication to the role than I imagined," says Cerone. "I really like it when an actor comes in and redefines a role. Kristin plays that sort of completely unexpected, off-the-cuff, flamethrower of truth. She's going to say what she says and sort of lull you into this false sense of security with her caring and compassion, and then the knives come out."
That was readily apparent when asked about the premiere episode's guest star, Joey McIntyre, who meets an untimely demise.
"He's laying there covered in blood -- he's been bludgeoned, and he's laying on the ground -- and all I can think is 'Please don't go girl!' " says Lehman with a laugh. " 'Oh, my God, we just killed the cultural icon for teendom and girls of the '80s.' "
What's funny is that it could have just as easily come from the mouth of Detective Flynn.
"I just love her," says Lehman. "I don't love all the characters I've played. But she's a woman who doesn't suffer fools easily. She's extremely smart, has a natural curiosity and a natural intuition and confidence. [I think] going through all the things that she's gone through in her life, like having a child at a young age ... . Being a single mom really requires you to state to the world the measure of your mettle. I just play her as someone who is extremely satisfied with her lot in life. And that is pretty satisfying to play."
And while the supporting characters, such as Detective Oscar Vega ( Louis Ferreira) and Dr. Betty Rogers ( Lauren Holly), are terrific compliments to Flynn, high marks need to be held out for the visual style of the series, which is shot on location in Vancouver.
The cinematic refinement is a visual drug that gives you the impression you're watching a feature film. Cerone credits director Bronwen Hughes, who shot the pilot, for creating the look and feel of the show.
While we're not ready to call it the next "Columbo," we're definitely optimistic and willing to look for "Motive."
Photo/Video credit: ABC