The roster of discarded high-tech sleuthing shows unfurls like a scroll (think “Snoops” and “Total Security” at ABC alone), yet “Eyes” manages to somewhat freshen the formula with clever twists and playful banter. Sparked by surprisingly dark moments and an attractive cast, producer John McNamara has set up enough interesting players and unopened doors here to construct a reasonably entertaining melodrama. Of course, that’s only if the show continues to develop its more tantalizing elements of corporate intrigue, as opposed to getting mired in the conventional underpinnings of a private-eye procedural.
If that prognosis waffles a bit, it’s because the pilot leaves some question regarding how serialized the program will be, and a subsequent episode doesn’t really defog matters. What’s clear is that if the series’ primary focus is on solving cases without a must-see hook from week to week, its prospects look even more grim opposite “Law & Order” and “CSI: NY.”
McNamara, who previously collaborated with Tim Daly on CBS’ “The Fugitive” revival, has a knack for high-energy storytelling — spraying a modern sheen onto a well-worn chassis. In this case, it’s a fast-paced world of high-tech surveillance, shady clients and can-do investigators operating outside the constraints of conventional law enforcement.
Daly is in fine form as Harlan Judd, the likable rogue who runs Judd Risk Management. Judd appears to thrive on chaos, which is just as well, since his business is dangling by a wire financially as a shady arms dealer maneuvers to buy him out.
Juggling a handful of storylines, the premiere’s ostensible “A” plot has Harlan seeking to recover $100 million in embezzled funds, which he pursues by periodically confronting the thief (guest Geoff Pierson) to update him on the investigation’s progress. Those exchanges reveal a smartass attitude that Daly handles with aplomb, if at times a bit too glibly for either his or the show’s good.
Harlan’s investigators, meanwhile, fret about the company’s future, though some allegiances and motivations remain purposefully murky. Jeff (“The L Word’s” Eric Mabius) and Trish (“The Shield’s” Natalie Zea) do find time to carry on a steamy affair, despite the fact that the latter’s husband also works for the firm and suspects her infidelity. Meanwhile, longtime associate Chris (Rick Worthy), recovering from a nervous breakdown, helps a former lover being threatened by skinheads.
Coming on the heels of “Grey’s Anatomy” and last fall’s bumper crop, at the very least this slickly assembled product extends ABC’s streak of creditable dramas — where no one should hang their heads if things don’t work out. As for the good news/bad news dept., “Eyes” needn’t post gangbuster numbers to exhibit promise because the program faces formidable competition and its mostly compatible “Alias'” lead-in has shriveled vs. “American Idol.”
Given those dynamics, success might amount to a case of mission: impossible; still, this is one of those rare Hollywood scenarios where a few extra wrinkles around the “Eyes” couldn’t hurt.