Fun playing murder victims and other notes, after the jump ...
For the sake of clarity, I should explain that I watched "Raines" a little bit out of order. I had a disc of the second episode but couldn't find my copy of the pilot, so I started with the second show. Not the worst thing to do in any case, since second episodes can often tell you more about what a show is than the pilot -- which is fundamentally a selling tool, especially for the audience.
Anyway, and here's the first sign that I liked the show, after seeing the second episode, I went onto nbc.com and watched the first. Doing that meant that I watched the pilot knowing one revelation that's held back for the end of the first episode. But the revelation won't be that big a surprise to anyone paying attention during the pilot.
And yes, I liked the show, more than I expected to, and enough that I may after to shoehorn it into my overburdened viewing schedule.
To explain: "Raines" stars Jeff Goldblum as an LAPD detective who is starting to see and talk with the victims in his cases. Not in a "Medium" kind of way; the show tries to make clear that the victim is Raines's mental concoction, and that the character changes as Raines learns more about the person. His stereotyping may also affect the images, and he has to throw away some assumptions along the way when he makes mistakes. In sum, it's a mystery with a visual aid: an evolving victim who traces what Raines, and we, know about the case.
It's an interesting device, and I suspect it was a considerable pleasure for the people cast as the victims. Think about how dull it must be much of the time to play someone who's been iced -- especially if you don't get flashbacks to life before murder. With "Raines," the victims have to change attitudes, change wardrobe, change accents, change their entire character to fit Raines's thoughts. Great acting exercise.
But the device wasn't what kept me watching. Neither, for that matter, were the mysteries, which felt a little stiff. A trauma in Raines's near past, which may have triggered his visions, is also less than remarkable. But, like "Monk," which is also watchable even when its plots are bedraggled, "Raines" has an engaging character in the middle: a guy who is smart, but unpleasant, unnecessarily nasty to people. As a detective, Raines says, "It's my job to think the worst of people." But Raines feels like the sort of person who doesn't need the job to think the worst.
Good performance from Goldblum, too. And the casting generally is solid, both in regular characters and in the suspects Raines interrogates. You know how some mysteries will cast a well-known actor as a suspect and then a bunch of nobodies as the other suspects? "Raines" doesn't play that. You see plenty of mid-range actors -- lots of, "oh, yeah, I know that face" -- even in roles that don't get a lot of screen time.
So am I crazy about the show? No, but I didn't turn it off midway through, either. As I said, I watched a second. It earned at least a third.