CROSSING LINES: Sunday 10PM on NBC – If Nothing Else Is On…
Television’s changing economics will probably lead to a lot more internationally financed co-productions as time goes on. In terms of content, that means subject matter that can be sold worldwide even without an initial US network success, which may require iconic protagonists like the upcoming Dracula or historical foreign-set sagas like The Pillars of the Earth and Da Vinci’s Demons. NBC’s new summer series CROSSING LINES has a functional solution to this need: it brings together a multitude of detectives from various European countries as a super-team (one of the characters likens them to DC Comics’s Justice League, because apparently he’s the only person on earth who hasn’t seen The Avengers) tracking down multi-national criminals.
The series, created by Edward Allen Bernero (a longtime American writer/producer whose work includes creating the series Third Watch), gives each member of the new squad some kind of tortured backstory. Former NY detective Carl Hickman (the very fine actor William Fichtner) was shot in the hand by a serial child abductor who got away, leaving Hickman unable to load a gun and saddled with a dependence on morphine and, of course, a thirst for revenge. Thinking of revenge, the squad’s organizer, Frenchman Louis Daniel (Marc Lavoine), saw his son murdered by a Russian gangster who’s also on the loose. There’s a contract out on Irish weapons expert Tommy McConnel’s (Richard Flood) life–paid for by his own father. French investigator Anne-Marie San (Moon Dailly) has a photographic memory, but also OCD. And so on, with a German tech expert (Tom Wlaschiha) and an Italian who’s worked undercover missions against the Mafia (Gabriella Pession) also on the team. Their equivalent of a weary Chief of Police is Michel Dorn of the International Criminal Court, who since he’s played by Donald Sutherland presumably has something hinky kicking around in his past.
It’s all fairly efficient if uninspired, and the same goes for the 2-hour pilot, written by Bernero and directed by Daniel Percival. The plotline, which feels padded to fill its extended running time (presumably so it could have been sold as a standalone TV-movie if the series hadn’t gone forward), gives us yet another mommy-obsessed serial killer, this one a US embassy employee who’s thus able to cross borders with impunity while he hunts and kills beautiful women. He’s extremely uninteresting, and the same goes for most of the narrative that tracks him down, even though it tries to use high-tech toys (a holographic recreation of a crime scene) to keep us watching. The idea of killing off one of the squad members who had appeared to be a series regular might have been a nice twist–if Bernero hadn’t provided so much foreshadowing of what was about to happen that we were virtually counting down to the character’s death. There’s a brief suggestion that Daniel may have been more cynical and calculating than he at first appeared in his choice of Hickman for the team (he needed an American), but so far that hasn’t really gone anywhere.
Crossing Lines is somewhat more interesting than a bare-bones procedural like ABC’s summer Motive, thanks to the characters’ inner demons and the presence of people like Fichtner and Sutherland. It’s marred, though, by too much flatly expository dialogue, and a concept that feels like it should have come with the international tax credit paperwork attached. Although in theory the team is globetrotting all over Europe, there was limited use of interesting locations in the pilot (much of the show is actually shot in Czechoslovakia, where part of its financing is based). At this point, there’s also very little chemistry between the actors, who are mostly notable for the clash of their accents, although perhaps that will improve as the series continues.
Not much will be expected of Crossing Lines in the ratings, especially since its lead-in will be reruns of Law & Order: SVU. The series seems as though it should successfully keep the lights on until August, which will suit NBC till football reclaims the night.