Review: Body of Proof 1×1

Brilliantly brilliant Dana Delany solves stupid crimes brilliantly

ABC's Body of Proof

In the US: Tuesdays, 10/9c, ABC
In the UK: Acquired by Alibi to air this year

In an effort to improve our quality of service, before watching Body of Proof, please complete the following questionnaire:

1) Do you like shows about strong, capable women?
a) Yes
b) No
c) Duh!

2) Do you like shows in which strong, capable women are called brilliant by every passing person in case you didn’t get the hint the first, second or tenth time?
a) Yes
b) No
c) Um…  

3) Do you like shows in which strong, capable women are shown they can’t have everything and have unsupportive husbands and lose custody of their daughters because they work just so damn hard at being brilliant to support the family but that just makes them an absentee mother rather than a good provider?
a) Yes
b) No
c) Would that really happen?

4) Do you like shows in which brilliant high-flying neurosurgeons give up their brilliant careers after having car accidents and killing patients because they worked so damn hard and end up becoming brilliant medical examiners who just aren’t content to examine dead bodies but instead have to go round and interview witnesses while police officers look on dumbly and shout at them for breaking the rules, but who are ultimately proved right?
a) Yes
b) No
c) Isn’t that kind of clunky and/or CSI?

5) Do you like crime shows in which at the end, the brilliant amateur detective gathers all the witnesses together, explains whodunnit, the clues that led her to that conclusion and then gets the police to escort the criminal away, while everyone tells her how brilliant she is and how wrong they were to judge her?
a) Yes
b) No
c) What is this? 1937

If you answered mostly b), do not watch this.
If you answered mostly c), my aren’t you a cynic?
But if you answered mostly a), have I got a show for you. Here’s a trailer

Plot (from the ABC web site)
Body of Proof follows the life and career of Medical Examiner Megan Hunt, once a high-flying neurosurgeon, who now works in Philadelphia’s Medical Examiner’s Office after a car accident abruptly ended her neurosurgery career. As a Medical Examiner Megan applies her vast medical knowledge, keen instincts and variously charming and scalpel-like personality to the task of solving the medical mysteries of the dead and bringing the people responsible for their deaths to justice. But that’s only half the show.

I love mysteries, be they criminal, medical or any other kind, but my focus as a writer has always been on strong characters. In Body of Proof I and my partner Matt Gross wanted a show that delivered both. On its surface Body of Proof is a close-ended procedural. Each week will deliver on the promise of a smart mystery ingeniously solved. But at its core, each episode is really just an excuse for us to visit Megan and the rest of our wonderful cast of characters. What do I love about Megan? She is funny and charming but also impatient and driven. She can be abrasive one moment and achingly vulnerable the next. We may not be as smart as she is, but we’re not as broken as she is either. We will root for her as she takes on not only cops and killers each week but also the wreckage of her marriage and her estrangement from her young daughter Lacey. And we will experience right along with Megan her faltering early steps in what will be a series-long quest to find love, happiness and self-knowledge, a quest for which she often seems completely unequipped, but a quest on which she has an unlikely group of helpers. The dead.

Death is a fact of life. The irony is, death has brought new life to Megan Hunt. As she investigates what happened to her patients, their lives and the lessons they hold become a kind of bequest to Megan, to learn from and to apply to her own life, if she has the courage to do so. It’s one thing to want to change, it’s quite another to make it happen. We will enjoy watching her try.

Is it any good?
While not a heinous piece of work, with the exception of Dana Delany and Jeri Ryan (Delany’s boss) are very good, this is a spectacularly average piece of work. There is literally nothing here that you won’t have seen before. In fact, in many ways it genuinely is a throwback to the days of Miss Marple, where the brilliant amateur detective solves the case, which invariably involves a very bizarre form of murder and the culprit confessing once the evidence has been presented to him or her. So if you miss Diagnosis Murder, Body of Proof should fit the gap nicely.

But if you like your crime series edgier or even well written, this is not the show for you. All the dialogue either goes towards advancing the plot, demonstrating how brilliantly brilliant Dana Delaney’s character is or showing just what a screw up in the whole “life” department she is – because as we all know, high-flying women who are sought after around the world for their skills are secretly resented by their husbands, can’t afford childcare and are really, really useless at multi-tasking, social skills, networking, etc.

In common with a lot of dramas aimed at women, primarily by men, as well as this clumsy attempt to create a female character who other women can empathise with, everything’s a bit soft-edged. Virtually every conversation is of the “caring, sharing” variety. Poor Jeri Ryan gets to spout crap like “Do you have a friend? Then get one. Because you can’t fight every battle forever alone.” Male work partner of Delany spends most of his time wanting to get to know about her and her personal life, then gives her helpful advice on how to bond with her estranged daughter. Yes, that’s right, a male-written drama with a female lead has a male character who doesn’t have kids of his own giving a woman advice on where she’s going wrong with her family. That’s feminist and exactly true to life.

The mystery that gets solved is largely ludicrous – spoiler alert the victim is given a medicine she’s allergic to by a cuckolded wife who discovers the affair when her husband gives the mistress an illness he’s contracted from his kids – and is solved in a very House/CSI way, so there’s not a lot of originality or plausibility going on with the crime side of the show either.

So unless you’re up for a little comfort viewing and want some very soft-edged, very slightly pro-women drama written by men that in no way challenges you or tells you something you didn’t know, steer clear of Body of Proof. Otherwise, sit back, relax, switch your brain off and enjoy yourself.

  • I felt similarly. Nothing you haven’t seen before. She looks amazing, though. Did you know she’s 55? Damn! And I agree that she and Jeri Ryan were good together, they should have more of that relationship and less of that guy (John Benjamin Hickey) who assists her.
    It’s not China Beach, but then again it’s not Desperate Housewives either.

  • nel

    thanks for the review. I was a big fan of China Beach and Dana Delaney so I tuned in but was disappointed. I ended up switching off about halfway through. Dana Delaney was very good, but oh, the dialogue! as clunky and unimaginative as the show title (Body of Proof? srsly?).
    And I’ve had enough of trying to suspend disbelief when a character who would normally not be allowed near a suspect or witness ends up in the interrogation room grilling suspects while the cops look on. Castle is guilty of this as well but Nathan Fillion makes it somewhat bearable.

  • They do it in CSI as well. You can see why they do it – you have the CSIs doing all that interrogation and then some other character extracts the confession. CSI at least has Jim Brass doing it a lot of the time, CSI: Miami had one episode (subsequently ignored) where it was implied that there was always a cop watching when the CSI did the interrogation (still inauthentic, but…), but it’s daft, isn’t it?

  • They do it in CSI as well. You can see why they do it – you have the CSIs doing all that interrogation and then some other character extracts the confession. CSI at least has Jim Brass doing it a lot of the time, CSI: Miami had one episode (subsequently ignored) where it was implied that there was always a cop watching when the CSI did the interrogation (still inauthentic, but…), but it’s daft, isn’t it?

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