June 24, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Pilot + 1 Review: “Proof”


PROOF:  Tuesday 10PM on TNT

A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at SHOWBUZZDAILY, we look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on PROOF:  Brilliant, brusque cardiac surgeon Cat Tyler (Jennifer Beals), struggling with the death of her son and her own near-death experience, is recruited by dying billionaire Ivan Turing (Matthew Modine) to provide scientific proof of what, if anything, happens after death.  She sets off with intern Zedan (Edi Gathegi) and Turning’s aide Janel (Caroline Kagan) to investigate incidents of near-death and post-death phenomena, while best-selling psychic Peter Van Owen (Callum Blue) watches from the sides.  When she’s not seeking the afterlife, she copes with ex-husband Len (David Sutcliffe), teen daughter Sophie (Annie Thurman) and her hospital boss Dr. Richmond (Joe Morton).

Episode 2:  Although there’s a hint of a continuing story underlying Proof (Cat is searching for a woman with a green scarf she saw in her own near-death vision), it’s essentially a medical/supernatural procedural, with a Phenomenon Of the Week to be explored and semi-explained.  Tonight’s second hour, written by series creator Rob Bragin and directed by Alex Graves, suggested that its goal will be to blandly toe the line between the two genres, never taking a position on one side or the other.

Tonight’s episode concerned a pilot (Ryan O’Nan) whose beloved wife had died suddeny; after her death, the husband continued to claim that he not only saw her as a ghost, but experienced her filling their tub, making coffee, etc.  Cat uncovered the fact that he had a brain tumor, under which influence he was sending out texts in the guise of his dead wife, and otherwise taking unconscious actions that made it look as though she was still present.  However likely that might be, the hour also left as a mystery just how the electricity in the operating room went out when Cat (the ghost was jealous of Cat) was on the husband’s surgical team, etc.  In the end, while the man had a concrete medical problem, maybe there was more to it, and maybe not.

None of this had any impact, either as medical drama or spiritual thriller.  The B story, which concerned whether Zed would be better served by returning full time to his medical studies or by continuing to spend some of his time on Cat’s otherworldly team, also had no stakes at all, since it was obvious that Zed wasn’t going anywhere.  Nor was there any attempt to develop the relationships between any of the characters, or to find a place for Van Owen in the scheme of things.  Cat threatened to leave the hunt in a hissy fit after learning that Turing knew Van Owen, but that meant nothing either, since without her there’d be no show.

Proof has a cast that’s largely too good for the roles they’re playing, especially Beals, Modine and Morton, the last of whom must wish that every script he receives could somehow have Shonda Rhimes’s name on it.  They do their best, but they’re unable to elevate this cautious, unexciting material.  Viewers weren’t any more engaged, giving Proof a premiere rating that was mediocre at best.  There’s no reason to expect the series to earn any more attention as it unwinds dim hours like the ones we’ve seen so far, and like the recent Resurrection and The Returned, Proof may be heading for the wrong side of the TV grave.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  Change the Channel

PILOT + 1:  Stay Dead

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."