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Review: Dana Delany Tries to Liven Up 'Body of Proof'

by Maureen Ryan, posted Mar 29th 2011 2:45PM
You know those promotional logos that networks sometimes put in a corner of the television screen?

They're highly annoying, but in the interest of clarity and/or honesty, perhaps ABC should consider putting the words "You are stupid" on the screen whenever it airs 'Body of Proof."

The "you" would refer to viewers, who, as far as 'Body of Proof' is concerned, can't be trusted to figure out or infer anything on their own. There's no such thing as subtext or subtlety when it comes to this 'House' meets 'CSI' hybrid, which stars Dana Delany as a cranky medical examiner who investigates murders.

It was pretty dumb when ABC superimposed a countdown clock for the premiere of 'V' on an episode of 'Lost' a couple years ago, but it's even dumber that the network that brought us that captivating, complicated island drama doesn't trust its audience's intelligence, not even a little bit.

Why not just come straight out and tell viewers, right there on the screen, that the network doesn't think the audience has more than three brain cells?

In every scene, 'Body of Proof' characters state and restate themes and ideas that were already quite obvious. But ABC clearly doesn't think viewers will understand that Dr. Megan Hunt's personal dilemmas often have parallels in the cases she investigates and that she has multiple relationship problems to overcome. The drama is quite determined to bludgeon us with that information at every turn, and that's a shame, considering that one of Delany's strengths as an actor is the subtlety and nuanced intelligence she brings to her characters.

Strangely enough, one of the show's central premises is never adequately explained. Hunt used to be a neurosurgeon, but an accident forced her to change careers, and though she's a good medical examiner, working with dead bodies was clearly not her chosen life path.

Yet we're supposed to believe that her accident gave her a newfound devotion to the dead, whose stories she teases out by dint of dogged investigation. There are vague reasons offered as to why she suddenly cares deeply about the murder victims whose lives and deaths she investigates, but given that she'd return to her old profession immediately if that were an option, her alleged dedication to her new job as a "corpse whisperer"* doesn't seem all that believable.

It's a shame that 'Body of Proof' boasts a competent supporting cast (including Jeri Ryan and 'The Wire's' Sonja Sohn) that is there only to set up scenarios that demonstrate Megan's brilliance. It's also annoying that the show boasts a typically moronic ABC score: That bippity-boppity music ABC shows use to hammer home the "humor" of lighter scenes is a scourge upon this great nation.

But the biggest missed opportunity concerns Delany herself. 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. As star vehicles go, it's more competently made than Jimmy Smits' laughable 'Outlaw,' but that's not exactly setting the bar high.

'Body of Proof' makes Delany deliver lines like, "I lost my child to my career, then I lost my career, all because of the damned accident." But the most mockable line is delivered by the straw-man villain of the piece, an old-school detective who slowly comes to have a grudging respect for Megan's ways.

But not before he barks, "Put a muzzle on that woman or I'm going to do it for you!"

Delany really deserves better. So do we.


* Full disclosure: I stole that phrase from my 'Talking TV' podcast partner Ryan McGee. We'll be posting a podcast in which we discuss 'Body of Proof' plus several other new shows later Tuesday.

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8 Comments

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Melanie

I liked it. I liked Delaney, I liked the supporting cast. Yeah, the writing could be a little crisper but it feels like it will sort itself out.

March 30 2011 at 6:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jefflyall

I actually liked it a lot and I generally don't like any CSI or crime procedural. I'm so over House so this is new and fresh to me and I think Delany rocks. I didn't find it insulting to my intelligence any more than any other television program and the music works fine. Sorry to disagree with nearly everyone of your points, Mo.

March 30 2011 at 4:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jefflyall

I actually liked it a lot and I generally don't like any CSI or crime procedural. I'm so over House so this is new and fresh to me and I think Delany rocks. I didn't find it insulting to my intelligence any more than any other television program and the music works fine. Sorry to disagree with nearly everyone of your points, Mo.

March 30 2011 at 4:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Genya1221

Not my question. My issue is not where she got her empathy -- I did indeed hear her say it was from paying close attention to the body -- I am talking about the blink-and-you-miss-it-and-then-never-mentioned-again moment when it was implied that she could not, physically, practice surgery after the accident. There is a big difference between loss of function and a crisis of conscience. And I do not think the writers or show runners have decided yet which it is, which is muddy and lazy.

March 30 2011 at 12:56 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
kay1496

I guess ABC was right to spoon feed it to the audience considering it appears that this reviewer missed the entire scene where she says she got her empathy for the dead after she killed someone. She learned more from the patient's autopsy than she learned from her while she was alive. She never said she got it from the car accident.

March 30 2011 at 12:39 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Genya1221

And then again, maybe I'm stupider than I think I am (or than stupid does) because I am still confused. Did the accident give her a physical deficit in her fine motor skills that prevents her from practicing surgery, or did causing a death get her struck off the roster. Or did she strike herself off in a fit of professional self-loathing? Seems they are so busy telling us everything we can deduce at least twice -- gee, maybe she doesn't have any friends! -- they couldn't decide which of the above landed her in the ME's office. Speaking of which, just how many levels of medical personnel does that department need? Seems like Kay Scarpetta gets along with an assistant and someone to manhandle bodies onto slabs. Just asking.

March 30 2011 at 11:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
crazymonkey81190

A show of her own is fantastic and I'm very happy for her, but I'd rather see her on DH. Or something with a little more meat. I'll try it out, but from what I've heard, it's not that great, it's not original enough. I don't know, she's such a great actress she deserves something that does her justice, but enough medical shows, PLEASE!

March 29 2011 at 5:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to crazymonkey81190's comment
ddvwrght

Enough is right! There's only room for one curmudgeon Dr. on tv and that spot belongs to Dr. House (he's the best!). Hugh Laurie Rocks!

March 30 2011 at 6:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jeff@tvonmyterms.com

Um. Have you looked at what the highest rated shows on television are? Reality and Procedurals - exactly the type of shows that require little to no brainpower or commitment to watch. Of course with Body of Proof they're trying to "dumb it down" a bit because that's what mass audiences consume. Every time a network tries to step outside the box, it's with little reward. Lonestar? Terriers? Lights Out? Rubicon?

Can hardly fault the networks for delivering what the ratings reports tell them is what "we" want. Personally, I enjoyed Body of Proof. It's not gourmet, no, but a little comfort food never hurt anybody. :-)

March 29 2011 at 5:22 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jeff@tvonmyterms.com's comment
Craig Ranapia

@Jeff: I've got nothing against a well-executed pass at a well-worm formula -- hello, huge 'Good Wife' and 'Castle' fan here! (Two show that were huge out-of-left-field rating successes for their networks, FWIW.) But please note the emphasis on "well-executed".

March 31 2011 at 1:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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