August 30, 2011


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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IDENTITY is so clearly a Jerry-Bruckheimer-for-CBS procedural that it comes as a shock to realize that it was neither produced by Bruckheimer nor developed for CBS.  In fact, Mark Gordon’s company produced the show for ABC Studios and the ABC network, which must have remembered at some point that it was in fact ABC and passed on the project.  Even as ersatz Bruckheimer/CBS fodder, the pilot wasn’t very good.

John Glenn’s script (he wrote the silly but successful Shia LaBoeuf vehicle Eagle Eye), centers on an elite FBI squad–it’s always an elite squad–organized to stop identity theft and related crime.  The members cover pretty much all the crucial cliches:  steely leader (Angela Bassett), by-the-rules guy who’s skilled but a bit of a fuddy-duddy (Orlando Jones), single woman computer genius (Bree Turner), liaison to the “young people” (Jay Paulson)… and, of course, the reckless, intuitively brilliant agent (Colin O’Donoghue) who drives By-The-Rules Guy crazy and who has something to hide.

The pilot cheats–as, no doubt, the series would regularly have done as well–by choosing as the villain an identity thief who’s completely insane, a multiple murderer with a very personal motive for his crimes, which probably isn’t the norm for this particular kind of illegality.  This allows for a certain amount of story breadth, although hardly any of it is convincing.  Director Gary Fleder provides the required high-tech war room set  with many computer and video monitors, and quick flashback cuts to the various crimes, but none of it can make the pilot seem less generic than it is.

The cast does its job.  Bassett is an actress of enormous strength who nevertheless needs something to play (she was quite good as the senior doctor toward the end of ER‘s epic run), here she’s just used for her air of authority.  At least she was used for something, which put her one up on the other actors–Turner’s part is limited to the kind of singleton quips that make you wince for the actress.  Only O’Donoghue is given any kind of storyline, and that one is fairly dumb.

IDENTITY‘s biggest problem was that it didn’t have one–the pilot feels like the script itself should have carried the subtitle “A Busted Pilot.”  The chance for identity crimesolvers to have their own primetime network TV series will have to remain on hold for another season.

The Sked’s Verdict:  The Network Was Right
Read more about TV’s new shows at THE SKED PILOT REPORT.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."