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Culture Television


The Evidence

We've seen it all before

The typical programming philosophy of TV executives is overkill. Find a successful show, turn it into a formula, then keep replicating it. In the "police procedural" genre, we follow law enforcement officials as they do their work, interview witnesses, and collect evidence until they solve the crime. This is an intrinsically interesting kind of story, turned into gripping television with Law and Order programs. A variation also hit it big, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, solving crimes with forensic science. Spin-off shows do the same in Miami and New York.

The latest, The Evidence (ABC, Wednesdays, 10:00 p.m. ET), consists of conventions that have pretty much run out of steam.

The show begins with a close-up of various objects in an evidence room, with a voiceover listing what they are ("item: human finger, severed"). Then a flashback shows the crime and the investigation. When each bit of evidence comes up in the storyline, the camera zeros in and cuts to the evidence room, lest we miss what it is. By the end of the story, all of the evidence fits together like pieces in a puzzle.

All of the stylized photography-extreme close-ups, slow-motion, blurs and stop-action, rapid-fire editing-distracts and annoys rather than moves the story along. If the effects are original, the rest is all too familiar.

As in all the rest, we have a team of two investigators who try to exude personality, but their bickering lacks wit and their characters fall flat. When we finally learn who did it, there is not much surprise. In contrast, Law and Order has engaging characters and plots that lead in unexpected directions.

The show isn't bad-though grisly images earn it a TV-14 rating-and anchoring the cases in evidence strikes a blow for objective truth in an age of relativism. The problem is, we have seen it all before.