‘Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior’

Eric McCandless/ABC

The latest CBS procedural spinoff sticks to the formula of clichés and blood.

CBS has an amazing trick up its sleeve that it has yet to foist upon the country: a spinoff of itself. As you must know, the network loves spinoffs. CSI, CSI: Miami, CSI: NY. NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles. How I Met Your Mother, How I Met Your Father, How I Met My Mistress. Sitcom With Overweight Husband and Hot Wife, Sitcom With Overweight Husband and Hot Wife 2: Meet the Neighbors. You get the point.

So the day will undoubtedly come when CBS2’s Criminal Military Procedural Investigation — CMPI, if you will — arrives on your dial. By then the second channel will have mastered the art of mixing familiar elements to create something, ahem, “original.” Kind of like a found-art project. For example, viewers are just given pictures they are really familiar with: authorities in the crime-and-punishment genre fronted by someone who looks important and intuitive. That person will stare into a microscope, pull off his or her sunglasses sullenly while looking at a really gory dead body, or stand up and look off into the distance as the camera pans in — a clue to the viewer that this person, obviously a profiler of some sort, is thinking like a genius or a killer.

Periodically, people in black jackets with “FBI,” “NCIS,” “DEA,” “NSA” or “ICE” on them — totally super-elite teams working mostly off the grid — will scramble around looking for unsubs (oh, come on, you know it means “unknown subject,” the killer at large). They will also periodically use their cell phones to dial a quirky person who’s really fantastic at computers and can call up any kind of background check or super-complicated spreadsheet of facts within seconds. Don’t you see the beauty here? The CBS audience will know what’s going to happen without being told. They’ve seen it so often, they know the formula. And as a cost-saving measure, CBS could splice in scenes and actors from all the procedurals it has canceled in the past.

When that time comes — and it’s coming — remember, you read about it here first.

How does this relate at all to Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior, the spawn of Criminal Minds? Well, clearly this show is a kind of test run. There is not a word or action in the first couple of episodes that you haven’t seen before, probably on CBS. You could watch this show with the sound off, which is advisable, and figure out what’s going on.

Forest Whitaker plays Special Agent Sam Cooper, chief of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit. This unit is perhaps more special than the Criminal Minds unit, or at least different in that stand-up comedian Janeane Garofalo is a member. Also, there’s a British guy (Matt Ryan), an ex-con (Michael Kelly) and someone really gorgeous (Beau Garrett). There is also Penelope Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness), the familiar bubbly, fast-talking tech whiz from the original Criminal Minds.

If you choose to watch Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior with the sound on (hey, some people have to learn the hard way), then you’ll be treated to a bevy of clichés about stepping into the darkness and looking for patterns, etc. People will talk out loud about suspect tendencies. You might get some surprises — two missing girls instead of one, let’s say. In a future episode, there will be an insane amount of gore when an unsub cuts some guy’s eyes out (while he’s alive) then rams an ice pick through the ear of a woman before finally getting caught trying to cut someone else’s tongue out. Don’t worry, he manages a couple of snips before Whitaker kicks the door in. Oh, and the eyes? The unsub washes them in the sink then puts them in a newspaper rack, and our elite team immediately profiles the killer as someone who likes “old media” and thus must be between 40 and 60 (and doesn’t own an iPad, one assumes).

Yes, that really happens.

If you don’t like to be challenged at all, or if you love clichés, tons of blood and an intuitive hero — oh, and really fast computers — then you’ll love Criminal Naval Special Criminal Suspect Unit, or whatever this formulaic nonsense is called.

And yes, it will be a hit.             

Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior
Airdate 10 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 16 (CBS)

 
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