‘I’ ON CULTURE
The TV show Instinct is remarkable for summer television. It actually is interesting. We all know that summer is the place they send all the shows that just about no one wants for the regular year. Of course, that was in the past. Now they show a lot of those during the year as well. I think I spend more time on Turner Classic Movies than all the manure they heap on us during the year. But Instinct is probably about as good as most of those television dramas where someone who is not a cop show up all the trained officers and manages to be amusing about it.
Based on a novel by James Patterson — which works reasonably well because some of his books take no longer to read than the average police show — it posits that brilliant psychologist Dylan Reinhart (Alan Cumming), a former CIA man, winds up being a consultant for the New York City Police Department partnered with Detective Lizzie Needham (Bojana Novakovic). In the pilot episode, someone is using Reinhart’s book as a pattern for murder, he gets involved, etc., etc. Since then, the consultant and detective wind up squabbling and generally manage to solve crimes.
One of the big gimmicks in this is that, unlike shows like Moonlighting and Castle and so many others, there will not be a romance. Reinhart is gay and married to his partner Andy (Daniel Ings), a former attorney who now owns a bar. Somehow, we are supposed to be all atwitter over this (or maybe all Twitter), but it seldom impacts the plots. The good news is that after a decent, if not brilliant first year, the plots now are getting really twisty. Often, the endings are a real surprise, not the usual, “well you can figure out who did it by crossing off whoever the leads were interested in during the first half hour.” That is what sets this series apart a bit.
In one remarkable episode, a single father left his son alone for a few minutes and the boy was kidnapped. The grandparents were irate that the father left the boy alone and were convinced that the man had killed their daughter, who had either jumped or been pushed off a building’s balcony a few years before although he had been declared not guilty by a jury. Then the detectives discovered that the grandfather had planned to fly to Cuba with the boy. The only sane people were a family with a couple of kids who occasionally watched the boy when problems arose. In the end, it turned out that the boy, with the help of the other kids, had run away to avoid being in the middle of things (he felt he was the cause of the whole problem) and, almost by accident, the police were able to actually prove that the man could not have killed the mother and the reason he had left the child is that he was an AA sponsor with a needy client. I like it when no one is murdered but we do have to think about things. The complexities of plot now make this a standout show.
Cumming, a brilliant actor, of course, shines in the role. Unfortunately, it is a bit one-dimensional. Wearing three-piece suits all the time may seem dashing, but the clothes seem more a part of creating a character and defining him rather than merely being a quirk. There are scenes in most episodes of the star riding his motorcycle through New York City streets while wearing those suits. It is supposed to make him quirky, but is far too studied.
In the first season, Novakovik was more or less a dour, mourning cop who was just by the book. This year, the producers livened things up by having a CIA-involved pal of Dylan’s, a computer hacker named Julian (Naveen Andrews), who had been invaluable finding things last year, enter the picture as Novakovik’s lover. The complications of the relationship improve the series. Andrews is exceptional; in the first season, he was simply brilliant. I find his character complex and interesting. Too bad the producers and writers did not take the time to provide that for Cummings.
Even better as a plot point, there is a long-running back story this year involving a serial killer who seems impossible to catch. Even brilliant Dylan Reinhart seems somewhat lost. That improves things greatly. For a summer show, this one is really good. Frankly, it is a lot better than many shows we have running during the year. Try it.