Right after "Andy Barker, P.I." premieres on Thursday, NBC will show the first episode of a very different kind of cop show: "Raines," Jeff Goldblum's latest project, which focuses on a Los Angeles detective who starts seeing and talking to the dead victims of the cases he's trying to solve. I checked out the first episode, which you can watch online, and I'm not sure I'll watch another. The opening minutes set up "Raines" as a neo-noir, but aside from the occasional trumpet wailing in the background, it could be any other procedural crime drama.
Well, except for the talking dead people. And as gimmicks go, this one isn't as bad as I'd feared. It's worth noting that the victims don't actually give Raines any information; they're just a sounding board for him while he's working through his own clues. But if those chats are meant to take the place of the traditional noir voiceover, I'd rather have the voiceover. While it leaves open the question of whether the people are ghosts, hallucinations or just figments of Raines' imagination, it makes for deadly dull television: Raines proposes a hypothesis, the victim shoots back a "maybe" or a "whatever you say," rinse, repeat. But "Raines" might be redeemable, so read more
That formula didn't leave me wanting more, and I can't picture a big audience following "Raines" to its normal Friday time slot. A small twist at the end of the pilot does add a bit of intrigue, but I don't think it's all that novel or shocking — especially considering that NBC basically revealed it at the end of its own preview of the series.
So — as with "House" or "Monk" — your feelings about "Raines" might boil down to how much you like Jeff Goldblum in the leading role. His Raines looks and acts like a classic detective straight out of "Dragnet," and his droll one-liners nearly saved the pilot for me. If "Raines" could somehow shift course and become more of an exploration of its title character's motivations (the "House" model), maybe it could pull me back in. But you'll have to let me know if that happens, because I probably won't be watching.