June 8, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “Murder In the First”


Unloved by most critics and viewers, MURDER IN THE FIRST was lucky to have survived to a second season on TNT.  The return came with a fair amount of revamping, in the apparent hope that the series would be more of a companion piece with its lead-in Major Crimes.  Although Taye Digs and Kathleen Robertson (as SFPD Inspectors Terry English and Hildy Mulligan) have returned, there are new faces (Emmanuelle  Chriqui is among the cops now).  The major changes, though, are in tone and format:  although storylines will extend beyond single episodes, Murder In the First now has the heart of a procedural rather than a mystery.  Unfortunately, it’s a very routine one.

The season premiere, written by series co-creator (with Steven Bochco) Eric Lodal and directed by Jesse Bochco, was almost entirely concerned with a single plot.  (There was brief mention of a missing undercover cop, setting up a story that will probably become a continuing thread for the season.)  In an opening sequence that echoed enough tragedies around the country to be familiar, two outcast teens opened fire on a school bus with automatic weapons, killing a dozen fellow students.  One of the shooters was caught almost immediately, and the only reason the other was still on the loose at the end of the opening hour was because he eluded the cops twice.

The attack was staged proficiently enough, and the episode managed one genuinely eerie moment, when cell service was restored to the area and all the body bags immediately started glowing and buzzing with accumulated messages for the dead.  Mostly, though, it was cops barking orders at each other and exchanging dialogue about munitions and tactics, with the only morsels of characterization coming when Hildy tried to track down her ex, who had failed to pick up their daughter at school.

Diggs and Robertson are charismatic performers, but they have very little to work with, now that the dark edges of their characters have been sanded off; there’s less personality on display here than on a typical Major Crimes, which has never been accused of being a well of startling personality insight.  The guest characters tonight were no more interesting, the only notable one being a shooter’s psychologist father, a well-educated moron who’d convinced himself he could cure his son’s sociopathic tendencies himself.

Based on its initial hour, Murder In The First may have accomplished little with its reboot other than becoming tiresome in a different way from Season 1.  Recidivism is no more attractive in a TV series than in a defendant.

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."