ABC premiered a new medical drama, Body of Proof, in late March. After reviewing the pilot, it seemed to be a standard medical/crime procedural, so I allowed it to languish on my TiVo for months. Truthfully, I was just hoping it would be canceled, and I wouldn’t have to watch it at all. There are a few interesting procedurals, including Bones and Castle, but most are boring and rote. But then Body of Proof got a second season, and I decided to give it a shot. Having watched the entire nine-episode run these past few days, most of my initial opinions hold firm. It is definitely a standard procedural, and far from the best on TV, but there are a few hints of something decent, so I will at least be watching the season premiere next fall.
The best thing Body of Proof has going for it is that it stars Dana Delany (Desperate Housewives) as the central character, Dr. Megan Hunt. Delany excels on Desperate Housewives, and continues to stretch her range on Body of Proof. She now plays a surgeon who, after an accident, been forced to switch careers, becoming a medical examiner. Although at first she comes acros as cold, Delany brings an earnestness and compassion to the role. It takes but a few hours for her to start to see the bodies as people, and really care about what happens to them.
Delany’s plot is furthered by the fact that she has an ex-husband, Todd (Jeffrey Nordling, Desperate Housewives, 24, Dirt), and a teenage daughter, Lacey (Mary Matilyn Mouser, Life Is Wild), whom she drove away during her surgeon days. Now that she seems to value more than her career, to which she still devotes most of her focus, she is trying to repair things with Lacey. While Mouser isn’t the best actress, the strongest episode of season one, “Talking Heads,” is one in which Megan gets very involved in Lacey’s life, and Lacey reciprocates.
Todd, on the other hand, remains an obstacle for Megan. While it may be understandable, given their history, that he harbors bitter feelings towards his ex, he does not think of her when acting, and barely considers her in regards to Lacey. In the season finale, “Broken Home,” Megan learns that Todd and her boss, Kate (Jeri Ryan, Star Trek: Voyager, Shark) are in a secret relationship, damaging Megan’s relationship with both of them. Todd doesn’t seem to care about Megan’s feelings of betrayal, and insits that he has done nothing wrong. He may be technically right, but his reaction is not.
Megan and Kate may or may not be okay when the season ends. A true pleasure of season one is any scene with Delany and Ryan together, both being fantastic veteran actresses. Ryan’s role is too small, and for that reason alone, it is forgivable that she gets involved with Todd, which gives her more screen time. Kate’s place as Megan’s boss, who Megan infrequently listens to, but both seem to have some personal mutual respect, is a delight, and the two have wonderful chemistry. The Todd subplot should be gotten rid of, but any time Kate wants to get more involved in a case, it’s welcome.
Also fun are Megan’s co-workers in the lab. Curtis (Windell D. Middlebrooks, The Suite Life on Deck, Scrubs) is grumpy, but helpful, and has an excitement when cases get interesting. Ethan (Geoffrey Arend, Trust Me, Daria) is an eager to please, still learning, underling, who frequently gets saddled with the crappy jobs. Considering that Curtis ranks above Megan, it may seem odd that he often ends up helping Ethan with said disgusting chores, but perhaps realizing Megan’s genius, Curtis only good-naturedly complains. Neither get much development thus far, except for Ethan’s love story with a beautiful woman (Mad Men‘s Christina Hendricks) in “Dead Man Walking,” but hopefully that will be corrected in season two. Perhaps even a return of Hendricks?
Sadly, Megan’s partner, Peter (Nicholas Bishop, Past Life, Home and Away), is generic and dull. There is nothing about him that stands out or is memorable, and he could be replaced by a similar looking actor tomorrow, and few people would notice. While he does sometimes give Megan good advice and offer her a sympathetic ear, Bishop is doing not a single thing to make his character stand out or interesting. If Peter is going to stick around, or god forbid, be a love interest for Megan, major changes are needed.
The final main characters, Detectives Bud Morris (John Carroll Lynch, Close to Home, The Drew Carey Show) and Samantha Baker (Sonja Sohn, The Wire), are a mixed bag. While Baker gets some character development while investigating the death of a friend in “Buried Secrets,” and Morris is shown bonding with Megan in “Helping Hand,” one episode is all either get to do anything other than typical police work. Both seem to be very capable actors, but both also take episodes off, and the plot changes little with only one at a time working. It’s a shame, because Morris and Baker are probably the biggest untapped potential of the series. Often on screen separately, as they don’t work in the lab, they get cheated more than the others.
So the main problem with Body of Proof seems to be that some of the supporting characters need to be beefed up. While Delany is fantastic, Body of Proof would be more interesting if it was more ensemble-focused, rather than banking on just one star. It has a deep enough talent pool to do so. Season one is not bad, but it could be better.
Body of Proof will return this fall to ABC.