You’ll be forgiven for assuming that Motive, ABC’s new summertime drama, is just like NCIS, CSI, The Closer, or (gulp) Columbo. The series is a procedural salad, tossed together with bits (big and small) from each of those series. Detective Angie Flynn (Kristin Lehman), our lead, works alongside Detectives Oscar Vega (Louis Ferreira) and Brian Lucas (Brendan Penny); they’re supervised by Staff Sergeant Boyd Bloom (Roger R. Cross) and supported by a sharp, no-nonsense medical examiner (Lauren Holly). Forensic evidence is a big deal, as is staring at the murder victims’ wounds. Det. Flynn has a teenage son (Cameron Bright), a colorful past, and a tendency to not really care about police procedure.
Motive, created by Daniel Cerone (Dexter, Dirty Sexy Money), is a procedural built from interchangeable parts. You’ll watch or you won’t. Stick around for Lehman’s tossed-off performance, which hits old notes in fun, familiar ways; and it’s no insult to say the visual style can be pleasingly elliptical, with shots that slip into one another, or pop white like flashbulbs.
But the plotting is unavoidably unavoidable it covers over the show’s other, smaller pleasures. Each episode takes a basic recipe (someone kills someone else; tries to cover it up; fails) and spices it up with new ingredients (a tormented high school boy lashing out; a sleazy politician with a sleazier secret) that do nothing but announce themselves: Hey, I’m a creepy teenager with problems! Who cares if everything else is ship-shape when the storytelling is so exhaustingly obvious? Allow me to switch food metaphors: Motive is a spaghetti procedural. Just throw it at the wall each week and see what sticks. CMotive airs tonight at 9 p.m. on ABC