Fox has enjoyed its share of success with dramas, but seldom with this sort of me-too procedural crimeshow, which, despite its slick execution, feels like a compilation of beats from “Profiler,” “The Silence of Lambs” and other artifacts that count serial killers by the bushel. As with those productions, “The Inside” also places a pretty blonde at the center of a dark, grim and nasty world — in this case one with “a gift … forged in pain,” which captures the general tone of this latest potential sacrifice to the network’s summer programming strategy.
Rachel Nichols plays Rebecca Locke, a newbie FBI agent recruited to the bureau’s Violent Crimes Unit (think “Law & Order: VCU”) by its ruthless supervisor, Web (Peter Coyote). In the premiere, she replaces a dead agent who had been investigating a serial killer that slices the faces off young women.
The cases don’t get any less grisly in episodes two and three, which include a visit to a sadomasochist club as well as a “Minority Report”-style murderer (dubbed the “pre-filer”) who eliminates men whose behavior hints at committing crimes in the future.
The somewhat unsavory twist here is that Rebecca was abducted as a child, which has somehow bestowed her with special insight in tracking the most nefarious of killers — a skill that Web hopes to exploit. In Coyote’s presence, as a more cold-blooded Jack Crawford to her Clarice Starling, the show exhibits a spark of ingenuity that isn’t quite enough to set it apart.
In writing and directing the pilot, Tim Minear (sharing “created by” credit with fellow “X-Files” and “Strange World” alum Howard Gordon) exhibits a steady hand in terms of pacing and a strong sense of the creepy-crawly. Unfortunately, it’s such well-trodden territory, the sense prevails that we’ve walked down these foreboding, dimly lit corridors many times before.
Similarly, the youthful Nichols is the kind of cool blonde Hitchcock would have loved, but as drawn here she’s ultimately just another TV crime fighter who appears to have stumbled out of a Revlon commercial, and beyond Coyote, her colleagues don’t register strongly.
Fox would doubtless like to establish more dramas that are self-contained and thus easily repeatable (unlike, say, “24” or “The OC”), along the lines of the “CSI” and “Law & Order” franchises.
Still, simply injecting youth serum into those formulas probably won’t achieve the desired effect. After all, as with hunting killers, cracking the code of a serialized programmer tends to require exhausting a few dead ends.