Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior

It's been several years since I last watched Criminal Minds, CBS' extremely popular, extremely grim crime procedural about an FBI profiling team that investigates serial killings and other gruesome crimes. I found it so off-putting and distasteful when it first started that I never bothered to return to it, even as it became more and more popular. Unlike a lot of procedurals that function as sort of innocuous background noise, Minds always struck me as especially repugnant with the way it wallows in the ugliest, most debased crimes, spending time on the nastiest details without offering any redeeming insight.

And I'm willing to acknowledge that maybe it's improved, although judging from the first two episodes of spin-off Suspect Behavior (which as far as I can tell is just the same show with different characters), things haven't changed a bit. Suspect does all of the things I hated about Minds when I first saw it, coming up with the most unpleasant, pseudo-shocking details possible for its crimes, and luridly glorifying the nastiness even as its characters work to investigate it. It's appalling that a network show can blithely depict a victim with his eyes gouged out and blood running down his face, yet MTV gets boycotted for showing teen characters having sex on Skins (but that's another discussion entirely).

With stars including Forest Whitaker and Janeane Garofalo, Suspect is like Squandered Potential: The TV Show, and the entire cast is stuck with awkward, portentous dialogue, all of which is delivered in the same hushed, somber tone. Even the hints of character development are dour and off-putting: One agent is provisionally back in the field after having killed a child molester while apprehending him. Only Kirsten Vangsness, doing double duty on both Minds shows, brings a little levity to things as the exposition-factory researcher back at headquarters, but she mostly just seems out of place. For Minds fans, Suspect offers more of the same, but I can't possibly think of that as anything but a bad thing.

Premieres tonight at 10 p.m. on CBS.

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