Tube Watch – Cable’s Detectives

by Alan Rapp on January 24, 2007

in Essays , Television Reviews 

It seems as though the game might, indeed, be afoot. Cable seems filled with great detectives lately. Monk and Psych both premiered their season openers last Friday, the Sci-fi Channel has just launched their newest series about a wizard detective titled The Dresden Files, and John Laroquette’s McBride appears to be back on the case.  Each brings their own unique style to solve mysteries, capture the bad guy, and entertain at the same time.


If you haven’t heard of Adrian Monk you must not own a television set.  Tony Shaloub‘s Emmy Award winning performance as the “affected detective” who has an uncanny ability to solve crime, but is afraid of everything from heights to milk, is one of televisions most interesting creations.  The show has gone through some changes over the past two season with Taylor Howard taking over in the role of Monk’s assistant from Bitty Schramm to the discomfort of some fans.  I like Howard (ever since Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place) and it makes since for Monk to move from a nurse to a more professional assistant (aside from the fact Schramm had to be let go over contract disputes).

This year Monk already found a new best friend who lacked some honesty (and liked to kill people).  The episode was okay, but a little weak for a season opener.  Recently the show has begun using Monk’s discomfort and oddities as a crutch coming very close into turning him into a caricature of the original character.  Hopefully this season he’ll move closer to both discovering the truth about the murder of his wife Trudy and continue to slowly improve in his relationship with the world.  I can think of no better ending than for Adrian to earn his way back onto the force, even if it would only be a desk job.  And don’t you wish he’d figure out his buddy Captain Stottlemeyer (Ted Levine) is notorious serial killer Buffalo Bill?  Really, how great a detective is he anyway?


With a hit in Monk USA looked for a show to ride its coattails.  The first attempt, to pair it with the cult favorite The Dead Zone, didn’t really work since the viewership is different for each show.  The same could be said for the darker and grittier Touching Evil which used a similar odd character, in a far more sinister and screwed-up world.  They just might have found it in Psych; sometimes the third time really is the charm.

The premise is this, Shawn Spencer (James Roday) is the son of a retired police officer (Corbin Bernsen).  Shawn has an uncanny ability to pick up clues and solve crimes but also an inherent laziness and attention deficit disorder.  On discovering the truth behind a crime, but unable to explain to detectives how he did it, he comes up with a brainstorm – he declares himself to be a psychic and opens his own detective agency with his best friend Gus (Dule Hill).  At times the show is a little too cute for its own good, but with likable stars and usually a pretty good story and good guest stars (the latest even had Red Foreman!) there usually enough to enjoy most weeks.  And am I the only one who wants Maggie Lawson to get a bigger role on the show?


Think a pinch of Columbo mixed with a large dash of Perry MasonJohn Laroquette returned to television two years ago to star in a series of made-for-TV movies as McBride, a former police detective who now works as a criminal defense attorney and does all his own investigating, with the help of his young partner Phil (Matt Lutz).  Over the past two-years eight movies have been made, the latest “Semper Fi” aired last week.

The show is a nice vehicle for Laroquette and includes some good mysteries and interesting effects used during McBride’s examination of witnesses.  If you haven’t caught it, or even heard of it, it’s because the show airs exclusively on the Hallmark Channel as part of their Mystery Movie series which also includes, the more hyped though weaker, Jane Doe and Mystery Woman.  With few episodes, an erratic schedule, and hardly any advertising (’cept on Hallmark) you’ll really have to search to find it, but it’s worth your time.

The Dresden Files

The Sci-fi Channel’s new detective drama stars Paul Blacktorne as Harry Dresden – a wizard haunted by a past and a desire to set things right (for $500 a day plus expenses).  The supporting cast includes a beautiful but tough cop (Valerie Cruz) and a ghost named Bob (Terrence Mann).  The show’s premise is based off the novels by Jim Butcher and from the pilot (which is the only episode so far to air) it shows promise.

It might last, depending on the quality of writing over the season, but at best it will probably only become a cult fav rather than a hit.  Early feedback from die-hard fans of the books has been mostly negative as they are not happy about the liberties and changes made in both the character and the over all world.  I will say this for though, fail or succeed, it has piqued my curiosity for the books; maybe I’ll pick one up.

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