Below, Ron Wynn surfs the week's TV offerings, skimming from Law & Order: Criminal Intent's farewell to Vincent D'Onofrio to the new CSI-style scalpel opera Miami Medical.
Even many of his most loyal fans openly doubted that super producer Dick Wolf could sustain a third weekly series when Law & Order: Criminal Intent debuted in 2001. The original had already been on 11 years, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit was making its mark, and surely there was a limit on how many stories could be "ripped from the headlines."
But Wolf made a sharp casting decision that instantly separated Criminal Intent from his other projects. Character actor Vincent D'Onofrio was tabbed to play super sleuth Robert Goren, a modern mix of Sherlock Holmes and Columbo. Goren's nervous mannerisms, irritating penchant for knowing something about everything, and occasional behavoral problems made him both an ace detective and fascinating, if often irritating figure. Kathryn Erbe as Alexandra Eames became his combination Dr. Watson and confidant, as well as the person who sometimes kept him from being destroyed by his demons.
Even as other characters came into the CI universe, the show's center always revolved around D'Onofrio and Robert Goren's antics. But Tuesday night, when Criminal Intent returns for its ninth season at 9 p.m. on USA Network, it will also mark the end of the Goren/Eames team. The season-opening two-parter is their farewell to the series. Jeff Goldblum, who joined the show last season as equally eccentric detective Zach Nichols, becomes the program's principal figure. He'll get a new partner in Serena Stevens, played by Saffron Burrows, and a new Captain as well. Eric Bogosian joins the alumni roster, replaced by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, who'll portray Capt. Zoe Callas.
Criminal Intent barely escaped cancellation three years ago, when NBC gave Wolf the choice of either eliminating one of his programs or doing something else to reduce expenses and payroll. He subsequently struck the deal with USA Network, which televises the first-run episodes, while NBC airs the reruns. Goldblum's shift essentially makes this a new program, as well as a test of whether Criminal Intent can enjoy a resurgence or is destined to be the first of the original Law & Order trilogy to bite the dust.
TV One's excellent music documentary series Unsung has returned for its third season. The show spotlights some of the forgotten, overlooked and underrated performers in soul, R&B and gospel over the last three decades. It airs Mondays at 8 p.m. This week's show features a powerful and sadly neglected vocalist and personality in Sylvester, one of disco's finest pure singers.
Because he worked in an idiom where rhythm and the beat were king, Sylvester's amazing talent was often taken for granted, even though he had the range, force, approach and intensity of a Golden Age gospel stylist. The show will include comments from friends and associates, among them Martha Wash, part of his backing duo Two Tons of Fun and a super vocalist in her own right.
TV One is available in this area on both Comcast and Charter Cable. Other performers due to be profiled this season include Rose Royce, The Bar-Kays, and Stacy Lattisaw.
With Cold Case and The Forgotten both on the endangered list, the Jerry Bruckheimer empire is looking for new hits. I'm not sure they've got one with Miami Medical, the latest hospital drama which begins Friday at 9 p.m. on WTVF-5. It marks the episodic TV debut of British actor Jeremy Northam, who was great in The Tudors and Emma.
He's cast as Dr. Matt Proctor, the head of a trauma unit where time is always critical. Bruckheimer's hoping they can get as lucky with Northam as Fox was with House and Hugh Laurie, but early reviews have been lukewarm at best. Perhaps the most interesting twist is Northam will be using his regular voice, accent and all, rather than adopting an American vocal personna.
Oscar-winner Holly Hunter begins the final set of shows in her series Saving Grace Monday at 9 p.m. on TNT. She's been every bit as good as anticipated, even though the producers and writers have often overdone the soap opera elements and underdeveloped the crime-solving and character interaction segments.
Still, Saving Grace has enjoyed a good four-season run and probably could have continued another couple of years, but Hunter only signed on for 60 episodes. The first program resolves the third season cliffhanger that saw her character fall from a rooftop. While I wasn't always thrilled with the direction or the storylines, Holly Hunter elevates anything she's involved with, and Saving Grace has been no different.
Contrary to what was printed in TV Guide, the second season of In Plain Sight starts this Thursday and not March 24. So if you tuned in last week looking for it (as we did) you didn't miss it after all. All the things we said about it then still apply, as Donnie Wahlberg will be the guest star for this opening episode, and the problems of Mary Shannon (Mary McCormack) and her family will continue.
But reportedly the emphasis is changing this year, with more time given to her cases and office interaction and less spent on emotional problems triggered by strange actions and decisions made by family members.