May 22, 2014

THE SKED Season Premiere Review: “Motive”


MOTIVE:  Wednesday 10PM on ABC

Welcome to summer network TV.

The broadcast networks talk a good game about the new 12-months-a-year world of television–and to its credit, CBS has been relatively ambitious with Under the Dome and this summer’s Extant, a sci-fi thriller starring Halle Berry–but for the most part, once May sweeps end, the broadcasters air a steady diet of burn-offs, cheap reality series and bare-bones (often Canadian) procedurals, allowing cable to flourish while they take 4 months off from any heavy lifting.

MOTIVE is one of those procedurals.  Its gimmick is that the opening scene of each episode shows who the killer and seemingly unrelated victim are, and then we watch as Detectives Angie Flynn (Kristin Lehman) and Oscar Vega (Louis Ferreira), along with eager-beaver junior Brian Lucas (Brendan Penny) and pathologist Betty Rogers (Lauren Holly), connect the dots.  In the Season 2 premiere, written by Executive Producer Dennis Heaton and directed by David Frazee, a photographer who recently got engaged fakes the suicide of an aspiring artist.  It’s really not much of a mystery after an early reveal that the photographer’s fiance’s old boyfriend had died at exactly the time that the photographer had left for India and other spiritual locations in need of a rebirth.  Sure enough, it turns out that the photographer and artist had been responsible for the old boyfriend’s death and covered it up, and the photographer killed his partner in crime when the latter returned from his journeys seeking to confess and make amends.  The only larger development of the hour was the arrival of Angie’s own ex Mark Cross (Warren Christie) as the new head of Homicide, raising the possibility of initial hostility and later sparks.

There’s nothing terribly wrong with Motive, as far as it goes.  Lehman and Ferreira are a likable team, and the script tells its tidy little story with a minimum of fuss.  The production values, while nothing special, are superior to what the phrase “Canadian series” used to imply even a few years ago.  But like much of the network TV that will be airing between now and August, it’s no more than unambitious filler, something to remind viewers that the broadcast networks still exist until they return fully-rested in the fall.  It’ll likely get the same sub-1 ratings it had last summer, once it no longer has tonight’s regular series as a lead-in, and a month after its 13 episodes have finished airing, even the people who watched will have trouble remembering what the show’s title was.  Hey, what’s on cable?

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."