‘Crossing Lines,’ solid if flawed copper
This new NBC procedural, set in Europe, tries too hard
June 18, 2013
As a rule, TV shows shouldn’t let us see them trying. Once we realize that a show is setting us up to be surprised, scared or moved, the intended effect is greatly diminished, if not destroyed entirely.
The two-hour premiere episode of NBC’s new crime series “Crossing Lines” tells a satisfying story of the hunt for an international serial killer, but it is so clumsy in its efforts to set up an emotional payoff that it probably shouldn’t have tried at all.
Still, despite a few other flaws, the show provides some good acting, unusual settings and decent suspense. Fans of ensemble crime procedurals will appreciate getting a dose while their regular suppliers are in summer reruns.
The premiere, airing this Sunday, June 23, at 9 p.m., sets up what the show’s own dialogue suggests is an unlikely premise: A veteran French police inspector, Louis Daniel (Marc Lavoine), forms an elite team of skilled criminal investigators to solve cross-border felonies under the aegis of the International Criminal Court, which is usually responsible for war crimes.
Daniel’s latest recruit is Carl Hickman (William Fichtner), a former New York City policeman who was fired after losing the use of his right arm when he was shot by a child abductor. Taking the burned-out-cop cliché to new levels, Carl is now addicted to morphine and has a job picking up garbage in a carnival in the Netherlands.
Persuaded that his deductive skills are crucial to the team’s current case — a serial killer who has been leaving the unidentifiable bodies of dead women in parks in major European capitals — Carl heads to Paris to investigate the latest murder.
His new colleagues are an unusually attractive bunch: Tommy McConnel (Richard Flood) is an Irish detective and former bare-knuckle boxer; Sienna Pride (Genevieve O’Reilly) is an upper-class Brit from Scotland Yard; Eva Vittoria (Gabriella Pession) is an Italian anti-Mafia specialist; Anne-Marie San (Moon Dailly) is a French detective with near-perfect memory; and Sebastian Berger (Tom Wlaschiha) is a tech nerd and police officer from Berlin.
Upon meeting Carl, the team members recite his life history to him, often finishing one another’s sentence. This being an international co-production, we can guess that maybe this wouldn’t seem so silly with French or Czech subtitles.
In the course of the investigation, some of the team members’ individual skills are exploited, but not in that Justice League-taking-turns fashion. Carl makes some brilliant deductions, and Sienna does a “cognitive interview” to draw forgotten details from an overwhelmed witness. Sebastian sets up a digital-imaging thingamajig at the crime scene, acquiring an important piece of information that could have been obtained just as easily with a smart-phone camera.
The European flavor of the show is a nice change from the usual network procedural. For example, the team rushes from city to city on express trains.
The non-English speakers have a hard time figuring out the cultural references in Carl’s dialogue. They have to ask Sienna for help when Carl tells Tommy, “You can kiss my a– in Macy’s window.” The women members don’t get a later reference to the Justice League.
Given his back story, Carl’s sullenness is understandable. The other principals also have their own weighty histories. Tommy and Sienna, being from opposite sides of the tracks, seem to be forming an attraction.
Donald Sutherland appears in a few scenes as Michael Dorn, a big shot in the ICC who green-lights and supervises the team. Perhaps to justify the money spent on this name actor, the writers pad out one of his scenes with a monologue in which Dorn explains to some pigeons that he can’t feed them and then mocks himself for talking so philosophically to pigeons.
Absurdly late in the game, the script tries to make us care a little more about one of the principals. Astute viewers will know that doesn’t bode well.
The second hour builds to a satisfying climax, although the screenwriters should have made the villain either creepier or more threatening. Two characters have major issues that are left promisingly unresolved.
Despite its title, “Crossing Lines” generally colors within the lines. Since unimaginative procedurals have a long history of success on the broadcast networks, this shouldn’t be a problem with the show’s intended audience.
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