June 16, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Proof”


PROOF:  Tuesday 10PM on TNT – Change the Channel

Is there life after pilot?  TNT’s new PROOF doesn’t make much of a first impression.  It’s a squishy attempt to fuse a medical setting with the come-into-the-light spirituality that’s made inspirational hits out of stories like Heaven Is For Real–except in this case, stripped of the hardcore Christianity that typically accompanies such sagas.  The medical context is supposed to help sell the gauzy fantasy and vice versa, but instead, none of the elements really mix.

The medical part of the show is pro forma.  Cat Tyler (Jennifer Beals) is a brilliant, arrogant cardiac surgeon who yells at her interns, like eager newbie Zedan Badawi (Edi Gathegi), says “shit!” since this is basic cable, and constantly tries the patience of boss Dr. Richmond (Joe Morton), even while she’s devoting everything to her patients, even spending her off-time volunteering at natural disasters.  She has an amiably broken marriage to Len (David Sutcliffe), who conveniently enough is also on the staff at her hospital, as well as a mildly troubled teen daughter in Sophie (Annie Thurman).  She’s humanized by a tragedy in her past:  the accidental death of her teen son.  Her life changes when Richmond tells her that mega-rich internet tycoon Ivan Turing (Matthew Modine) is considering a massive contribution to the hospital–on conditions he’ll only disclose to Cat.

Turing, it turns out, has his heart set on finding out just what happens after death, because he himself is rapidly dying of cancer, and he wants a skeptical doctor to investigate so he’ll believe the results.  Although she briefly resists, Cat has personal reasons for curiosity–not just her son’s death, but her own near-death experience, during which she saw images of ghostly figures who may or may not have been merely in her imagination.  So she’s quickly off, with Zedan as her sidekick (by the end of the pilot, she’s also added Turing’s perky assistant, played by Caroline Rose Kaplan, to her team), to look into the case of a cute little girl who, while on the operating table, floated above it and post-surgery was able to sketch not just relatives she’d never met, but what her father was doing during her operation.

Series creator Rob Bragin (previously an Executive Producer of Greek) doesn’t add an ounce of originality to the idea of combining the medical premise with the supernatural mysteries, and pilot director Alex Graves piles on the visual cliches as well.  Proof feels like a show conceived at a network pitch meeting, and none of it is grounded in anything like a real world.  The one thing Proof does have going for it is its cast.  Beals is an appealing protagonist who can be sharptongued and sympathetic at once, and Morton–although severely underused compared to his recent virtuoso turn on Scandal–is always a compelling presence.  Modine manages to infuse his eccentric billionaire role with some wry wit.

It appears from some of the dialogue late in the episode that Cat and company intend to examine more horror-movie-ish tropes like poltergeists as the season goes on, and the character list does have one potential wild card in the bestselling–but possibly authentic–psychic author Peter Van Owen (Callum Blue), who appears briefly in the pilot, and whose place in the narrative is unclear.  None of it, though, is enough to inspire much optimism.  Proof is exactly what Proof needs to provide–and fast–or else even with a Rizzoli & Isles lead-in, it will be no more than a theory.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."