Raines is the most intelligent network television drama to come along in years. It is a drama because the direction of the action is dictated by the character, police detective Michael Raines (Jeff Goldblum). It is intelligent because its producers have had the good sense to put their faith and their money into excellent writers and actors.
The hook in Raines is that this particular cop talks to imaginary characters. But it doesn't take long to figure out that the murdered woman in the premier episode who pops up and asks Raines to find her killer actually represents that part of Raines' mind that seeks the solution to the mystery. She knows no more than he does at any moment in their conversations, and as he queries her, he is actually working out the evidence in his own thinking. When he has questioned a witness, he runs what he has learned by her, and she reacts as his knowledge of her would react. What we as the audience are allowed to witness through this device is the mind of the detective at work as he unravels the mystery. He actually quizzes his best witness, the murder victim, before our eyes. This may not be a stroke of genius, but it is certainly a stroke of brilliance.
At the heart of Raines beats the eccentric brilliance of Jeff Goldblum. I actually approached this first episode with some trepidation, fearing that Goldblum would gum up the works with all sorts of quirky business. He has been known to fidget and squirm to a degree that takes the attention off an otherwise excellent performance. But he actually underplays Raines to marvelous effect. When his characteristic wit does show through, and I mean wit in both senses here, he is both so intelligent and so funny in lightening quick flashes that they are gone as quickly as one notices them. So, in a sometimes passive exterior, we are aware of a formidable, volatile power. And, as if that isn't enough, Goldblum gives us true tenderness at moments in this performance. We simply don't see acting like this on network television often enough to keep track of it.
So we must ask the inevitable questions. Will the public appreciate a television program with the intelligence of Raines? It is slotted against CSI, and that's a tough sell. But the prospect of seeing Jeff Goldblum talking to people who "aren't there" might be a point in its favor with a mass audience. Will the producers of the show continue to invest in scripts as good as the first one? That's anybody's guess. A lot probably depends on reaction to the first episode or two. Here's hoping that Mike Raines lives a long and happy life, talking to himself via his inner cast of characters. Just in case the run of the show is brief, however, catch the brilliance while you can. (If you have an Intel processor, you can download the first episode at the NBC site.)
43 out of 43 found this helpful