Dana Delany makes BODY OF PROOF more than an average procedural

Body of Proof is what you might call a character-cedural. On the surface it might appear to be a reemagining of Quincy M.E. or even Crossing Jordan but Dana Delany elevates what might be just a standard procedural. As I’ve said before, there are many well made procedurals, but they don’t usually hold my interest. They are case of the week driven and I am more of a fan of character driven shows. Case in Point: I have stuck with House for 7 years. (Although truthfully I feel at this point it’s more out of habit as I’ve become incredibly bored with the show.) The medical case of the week always has interested me least, but Hugh Laurie’s bravura performance and his character are what set the show apart.

Similarly, Dana Delany makes Megan Hunt an incredibly compelling character. Megan has the kind of backstory that is usually a precursor for these kinds of shows, albeit with a different twist. Megan was a brilliant neurosurgeon who neglected her husband and daughter as she was married to her job, although she was less invested in the people she was treating than their ailments. Her husband divorced her, and won full custody of their daughter. Then in a cruel twist of fate, she was involved in a car accident and couldn’t be a surgeon anymore, so she reinvented herself as a medical examiner that now is interested and invested in the dead bodies of the people she was less interested in when they were alive, as “they tell the story of a life”.  Got all that? Of course in this show the medical examiner is the all-knowing who has the answer to, well everything, even more than the cops she butts heads with. (She butts heads with everyone, just to be clear. Making friends is not something she does well).

But before you scoff, Dana makes it work. You believe she is this smart, you believe her as this cocksure ball buster and at the same time, you kind of like her. That’s a tough balance for an actor to juggle.  She also conveys the pain of a woman who as she says “lost her daughter to her career and then lost her career” and is using this opportunity to rebuild her life. Did I mention that Dana looks stunning while doing all this? Most people can’t believe she’s 55, but in actuality she won that Emmy for China Beach more than 20 years ago. Dana usually stands out in everything she’s in, most recently as Katherine Mayfair on Desperate Housewives.  But it’s exciting here to see all of her talent on full display, and as the star, not just part of an ensemble. Incidentally, if there is a major positive to this TV season, it’s that stars of new series on CBS, NBC and now ABC – Tom Selleck, Kathy Bates, and Dana Delany respectively – have bucked the trend of this youth obsessed business. The networks have actually built TV series around actors over 50 who just happen to be great. How refreshing. The first 2 have also done quite well for their respective networks. Hopefully Dana and Body of Proof will join their company.

While the series revolves around Dana’s Megan, there is a great supporting cast in place. John Carroll Lynch, Jeri Ryan, Wendell Middlebrooks, Geoffrey Arend (his real life wife Christina Hendricks guests for 2 eps), Nic Bishop a.k.a. Simon Baker’s doppleganger (and fellow Aussie in real life), and The Wire’s terrific Sonja Sohn. Sonja doesn’t get to do much in the pilot but hopefully as the series rolls on, her part will expand. Either way, psyched to see her back on TV in a regular role. But make no mistake –  this is Dana’s show and that is primarily why this show stands out from most procedurals.

There’s also humor to the show, which sets it apart from its serious counterparts, and while ABC has struck out with case driven procedurals like The Evidence, The Forgotten and The Whole Truth, they did find a hit with Castle. The reason that show worked, I believe, is because Castle is an ABC show dressed up as a procedural. Most weeks the case is incidental to Nathan Fillion’s charming charisma, his one liners and his hot chemistry with Stana Katic. Read most articles about the show and all fans want to know is when those two will get together. It’s Moonlighting for the 2010’s.  Similarly Body of Proof has Dana Delany’s star making turn and sexiness on full display. Yes there is a case of the week for viewers that are just seeking that, but it’s more of a character procedural than anything ABC has done since Castle and it seems like the network knows that and is selling it as such. If Body of Proof doesn’t work it won’t be because of lack of promotion and I think they are correctly focusing the promos on the best parts of the show. They are running these hot, sexy promos (more than any others), that focus on the above. Check ‘em out:

Here’s a one minute promo that has been in high rotation that sells the conceit of the show, but makes sure you know that the show is about Megan Hunt more than the case of the week. The jaunty tune on the soundtrack tells you the show is supposed to be fun (not dour):

Here’s the one that sells it as a straight up procedural. This promo is running much less than the others and I suspect it was cut for networks like Discovery Investigation, (where promos have run a lot). Notice the difference, including the removal of a jaunty or kick ass rock tune in favor of serious instrumental music.

While I was looking for these promos to include, I came across one I hadn’t seen on TV which highlights the “know- it-all- ness” of Megan. Clever promos, ABC.

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