The new Bill Cosby mystery series, created by David Black and William Link, debuts with a trio of killings, lightweight characters, cases full of holes and an affable Cosby as forensics expert Guy Hanks. Series better lighten up on the fizz and bear down on some hard stuff; cutes can be as deadly as murder.
Series regulars include James Naughton as straightforward homicide detective Sully, with whom Hanks works, and Rita Moreno is ditzy-but-nice Angie Corea, his landlady. Lynn Whitfield plays Barbara Lorenz, Hanks’ attractive girlfriend, and Dante Beze is Dante, an unofficial trainee of Hanks’. As it stands, the regulars’ relationships are forced.
The crime scene isn’t any better. Hanks, a lottery winner, joins other winners at their annual luncheon, where he meets Philip Walkner (David Thornton) , who’s pulled down $ 20 mil. He also encounters winner Fletcher (Donald Wayne); they’re subsequently murdered. Hanks hits home to find a tape recording declaring him next on the murderer’s agenda.
Suspects are uncovered: A man to whom Walkner willed money to investigate UFOs, Walkner’s severe widow (Susan Pratt) and her forceful sis (Jennifer Van Dyck), and Fletcher’s sexy g.f. (Stacy Logan).
No trace is made on whether the victims also got warnings or whose voice is on the tape. Scenes like a deli encounter and an argument over bread are fillers; another is a lesson (again) on locating where a tape was made by uncovering hidden sound clues.
Cosby ambles casually through his role, while Naughton’s part is firm and dependably bland; able Whitfield is stuck trying to get Hanks to take her to dinner, while Moreno’s character is bursting with not-so-funny bizarre ideas.
With all the busyness of entertaining, “The Cosby Mysteries” opens with too much silliness and closes with an uninspired solution.
Director Jerry London makes excellent use of the Manhattan setting, and the final scene as Hanks and Barbara dance on a streetcorner while the camera draws back is vintage but welcome. Tech credits are superior.