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The New Guy Joins "Criminal Minds"

By admin Published: November 1, 2007

Joe M

For those of you tuning in late, the ever-restless Mandy Patinkin announced in July that he was leaving "Criminal Minds" over creative differences. The show promptly traded up, hiring Joe Mantegna, who made his debut on the show last night. ...

I should say that I find Mandy Patinkin an impressive and unpredictable actor. But for pete's sake, this is Joe Mantegna. "House of Games." "Things Change." "Searching for Bobby Fischer." And, as co-star Kirsten Vangsness said on her blog, '' a voice on one of the greatest shows in the history of television," meaning "The Simpsons."

So I put aside my general squeamishness about "Criminal Minds" (as I get older, I am less and less inclined toward gore and creepy crimes, except in occasional, small doses) to watch last night's episode, and was not at all displeased with Mantegna's role.

He plays David Rossi, a retired FBI agent who has come back to fill the gap left by the departure of Patinkin's character. But he's also back because there's an old, unsolved case that haunts him. And he's interesting not because of that case but because he's old school, relying as much on instinct as the big-time gathering of data, and an old guy, apparently a mentor to Hotchner (Thomas Gibson) and one of the founding members of the BAU. So he not only has his own way of doing things, he's not about to sit around a table waiting for someone to make a decision.

Rossi's debut worked well as a re-introduction of the series, since some new viewers may have stopped by to check out Mantegna; bringing him in required more explanation of what the unit does, and how it works. And, since Rossi has been retired for some time, he brought a gee-whiz element to what the unit does -- impressed, for example, that it now has a jet. When a show has been on a long time, viewers may come to take its trappings for granted; Rossi is a way of reminding viewers that this is a cool job.

But would I watch the show again? I don't know. It's reasonably well done, although the plot on Wednesday's telecast was pretty linear and not all that complicated. And I do like Mantegna, and I liked his interplay with Gibson and the other characters. Also, Vangsness's blog (which you can find on CBS.com) hints at a big development in the next episode. But the crimes still make me sick.

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