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Watching stuff: "Intelligence," "Killer Women"

By Rich Heldenfels Published: January 6, 2014

Molly is committed to finding the truth and seeing justice served. She's even willing to break some rules to get it done.

That’s a line from ABC’s description of “Killer Women,” a new series starring Tricia Helfer and it’s almost enough by itself to make me never watch the show. Can we possibly count all the rules-breaking justice seekers who have populated television over the last 50 years, not to mention their movie mates? Can we not just sit and wait for the moment when “the rules” work against “the truth” and someone’s going to have to break "the rules” so to get “justice served” – usually with a big can of whipass on the side?

But that’s what two new shows (this and “Intelligence,” coming to CBS) are committed to providing, courtesy of tough, smart people who are also damaged – because, if they are damaged, then the audience can relate to them more, and not simply resent them for being tough and smart.

If, that is, the audience tunes in at all. (Look at the dismal returns for “The Assets,” another ABC winter series, deservedly rejected by the audience. I was out of the premiere after about 10 dull minutes.) CBS is hedging its bets with “Intelligence” at least, putting the premiere at 9 p.m. Tuesday, behind a new “NCIS” episode, before moving it to 10 p.m. Mondays. ABC, with less good real estate, took a heavy-promotional route with “Killer Women,” which arrives at 10 p.m. Tuesday.  It seems as if I saw a zillion or so ads for it, and most of my viewing lately has been football.

To the shows: “Killer Women” finds Helfer, beloved by many for playing an array of tough and even scary characters as the rare Texas Ranger who is also a woman, and therefore resented by men who think she got the job based on gender. While the show makes clear that she can ride and rope and shoot and hit, itt nonetheless argues that being a woman is in fact an asset for Helfer’s character, Molly Parker.

The series premiere finds her investigating the killing of an assistant district attorney  – by a woman who is more than ready to take the rap. But Molly senses that the killer isn’t the murderous type, and definitely not the sort to invade the prosecutor’s wedding and gun her down.  Not only does she sense that, she sees signs that men would miss, such as the condition of the killer’s manicure. And, we eventually learn, Molly recognizes a victim because an incident in her past.

Said incident is explained in one of those “I’ve never told anyone this” monologues that is thoroughly contrived, much as Helfer labors in presenting it. In fact, I was hoping that it would prove to be Parker conning the person she was talking to – alas, it was all too genuine and led to a Parker epiphany later in the episode. But, much as I like Helfer at times, this show is not worth my visiting again. I have seen it before, and with more interesting and complicated characters.

A couple of notes: The killer is played by Nadine Velazquez, whom you may know as the unlikable prosecutor on “Major Crimes.” And there’s a brief appearance by Brad Leland, better known as Buddy Garrity on “Friday Night Lights.” Seeing him made me happier than the rest of the show did.

I have seen two episodes of “Intelligence,” the one airing Tuesday and the one on Jan. 13, and I might give it another look – if there’s nothing else compelling on. If I do, it will be mainly on the strength of its star, “Lost’s” Josh Holloway, who brings that Sawyer-like combination of abrasiveness, charisma and vulnerability to this show. I’m also a Marg Helgenberger fan, although these two episodes don’t give her anywhere near as much to work with as she had on “CSI” or especially “China Beach.” In fact, there’s something to be written about really good actresses plunked into supporting roles of little consequence on TV series. (Linda Hunt on “NCIS: LA” and Lili Taylor on “Almost Human” come to mind.) But the show itself? Enh.

Holloway plays Gabriel, a tough operative who has had a chip implanted in his brain that lets him access all kinds of data, from information grids to GPS coordinates. (People who watched “Chuck” more than I did have made comparisons.)  According to CBS, he has an “appetite for reckless, unpredictable behavior and disregard for protocol” – although you can be sure that only happens when he is finding the truth and seeing justice served. He also carries some bad memories; his wife died in a terrorist attack – where she was one of the terrorists. Again, you can be sure that Gabriel is committed to finding the truth about that incident.

Anyway, with his techno-smarts – and his fighting skills – Gabriel goes after international villains while also carrying hardware in his head that could be useful to others. Helgenberger is his boss and Meghan Ory plays his partner/bodyguard/handler. The show is decently paced, Holloway is watchable – but, well, not long after watching the second episode, I was struggling to remember if I had watched it, and what it was about.

Finding the truth, it turns out. And seeing justice served.

Coming later: a post about the new season of "Justified," a show I admire considerably more than the two programs discussed above.


 

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