'Stitchers': TV Review

Adam Taylor/ABC Family
A lackluster procedural.

A graduate student has the ability to visit the dead's final memories in this new series on ABC Family.

Cop shows are so prevalent that TV characters keep coming up with new and even more preposterous ways to solve crimes.

In the new ABC Family drama Stitchers, Caltech graduate student Kirsten (Emma Ishta) can be stitched into the memories of victims. Through cutting-edge technology (is there any other kind?), she’s able to visit the deceased’s last moments and figure out how and why they were murdered.

Simple, right? OK, maybe not simple, exactly, but the inaugural episode makes the show’s premise extraordinarily complicated. Adding to the confusion, the pilot employs the tired technique of taking viewers back "10 hours earlier." If there were one overused TV storytelling device I would outlaw, this would be it.

You almost can feel the show’s writers struggling to help the audience make sense of everything. The second episode, with the show’s intricate mythology firmly established, is much stronger.

Kirsten suffers from temporal dysplasia, a condition that makes it impossible for her to have any perception of time. “I don’t know what time feels like,” she explains to her new boss, Maggie (Salli Richardson-Whitfield). When Kirsten learns that her father has died, she shows no emotion because “the knowledge of him being dead was instantly familiar.”

This condition makes Kirsten socially awkward. She’s devoid of affect or emotion and unable to read any social cues. She could be a cousin of The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon. But Kirsten is missing Sheldon’s heart and humanity; it's challenging to root for her character, since her behavior is often almost robotlike. It's one thing for the show's protagonist to be unlikable — it's quite another for her to be so dull that she evokes no emotion in the viewer whatsoever.

It also doesn’t help that temporal dysplasia isn’t a real thing, thereby giving the audience two major hurdles in the “willing suspension of disbelief” department: We have to be on board with both Kirsten’s condition and the Stitchers' technology.

Stitchers has the misfortune of debuting after The CW’s iZombie. In that series, the main character also uses access to a victim’s memory to solve crimes. Sure, she does so by eating the brains of the victims — but the results are the same. Given that both shows are aimed at a similar target demographic, comparisons are inevitable.

The Stitchers program is a covert operation of the federal government (naturally) and is staffed by a group of eccentrics. Brilliant Cameron (Kyle Harris) is a neuroscientist plagued by what happened to the last person he stitched into memories. Cameron’s assistant/sidekick, Linus (Ritesh Rajan), has the show’s comic relief covered. Kirsten’s roommate, Camille (Allison Scagliotti), has reached her limit with Kirsten’s attitude, and Detective Fisher (Damon Dayoub) is a cop who can’t quite figure Kirsten out. The rapport between Linus and Cameron is fun, and the series already seems to be building a will-they-or-won’t-they romance between Kirsten and Cameron. Harris is definitely a standout among the cast.

Kirsten’s way of solving crimes may be complex, but the crimes themselves seem straight out of the CSI franchise. A drug-related death at a rave and stopping a bomb are the focuses of the first two episodes available for review.

The show has the potential to be quite entertaining if it stops taking itself so seriously. It needs the heart of the network's Chasing Life and the campiness of its Pretty Little Liars. Right now, even the pop culture-laden, quippy dialogue falls flat.

The first two episodes plant many questions. Did Kirsten’s father commit suicide, or was he murdered? How dangerous is the Stitchers program to Kirsten’s health? What exactly is Maggie hiding? There’s plenty there to explore; I’m just not sure the show is interesting enough to warrant doing so.