Jill Hennessy re-enters the series television world with an image far different from the one she wore in her first major go-round, as a deputy district attorney on “Law & Order.” As Dr. Jordan Cavanaugh, she is expected to carry “Crossing Jordan” — to give it depth, sex appeal, grit and, one imagines, even more sex appeal. It’s a heavy weight, and there are signs in just the first episode that Hennessy and the production team led by Tim Kring are up to the task. Stories shouldn’t end as neatly as the one in the pilot — Jordan’s transition from apparently homeless to superwoman moves faster than a speeding bullet — but she has the talent to carry this show by her lonesome.
Show’s competition for eyeballs is almost evenly split by gender: “Jordan” lines up against ABC’s Monday Night Football and CBS’ “Family Law,” implying that the show needs the Jordan character to be sharp enough in the storylines to attract women and sexy enough to lure men who turn off second quarter blowouts. It’s a tough request.
In the pilot, Jordan is back home in Boston, her career as a medical examiner so checkered in other cities that she has nowhere else to turn except to the people who first found her exceptional. Garret Macy (Miguel Ferrer) hires her at a cut-rate salary and shows faith in her talents; his mind, however, is mostly consumed by his personal demons. Same is true for Jordan’s ex-cop father (Ken Howard), who continues to be plagued by the unsolved murder of his wife.
Jordan quickly becomes the M.E. who raises the red flag in investigations. In the pilot, a prostitute’s suicide doesn’t sit right with her and she starts her own probe that leads her to the investigator on the case, a detective played with disarming charm by Kyle Secor (far meaner as a D.A. this fall on “Philly” than he is here). Jordan’s job, and her life for that matter, are suddenly jeopardized. In the end, she’s applauded for her instincts.
Deep down, producers have to know they’re selling this based on Hennessy’s sex appeal. Not that the pilot finds her behaving in any sort of risque manner — Jordan is a down-to-earth woman — but it’s clear she won’t be spending lengthy days in a lab wearing a white coat.
Peripheral characters, never onscreen for long, include one, Mahesh, who’s blessed with the impossibly last name of Vijayaraghavensatyanaryanamurthy. Perhaps someone in the Tailwind Prods. office thought it would be humorous to string together five common Indian last names, but in the process they have created a name as likely as Jesus Abramowitz — by mixing and matching sects they have joined together people who worship different gods. And this is supposed to be an era of heightened sensitivity to such matters.
Show’s look is rather flat and unimpressive, cementing the focus on the onscreen activities and giving space for the viewers, rather than the camera, to fall in love with Jill Hennessy.