Looking more and more like CBS, ABC adds another crime procedural with “Body of Proof,” which asks the burning question whether “Quincy” can seem cooler if you cast Dana Delany as the feisty medical examiner. The answer, strangely enough, is a qualified yes, with Delany appearing in virtually every scene, bringing class, sex appeal and a bit of humor to the central role. Although unlikely to knock ’em dead and become the hit ABC could seriously use, the show could be another “Castle,” especially since it uses “Dancing With the Stars” to point an older female audience its way.
The pilot essentially putties in details on the fly regarding Delany’s Dr. Megan Hunt, the better to leap into a case showcasing her on-the-job savvy. Once a brilliant neurosurgeon, that career was cut short by a car accident, leaving her to slice up cadavers because, she notes ruefully, “You can’t kill somebody if they’re already dead.”
Bitchy and imperious with co-workers and the detectives who cross her path (the latter include “The Wire’s” Sonja Sohn and the reliably cranky John Carroll Lynch), Hunt’s hard shell hides both sympathy for the victims and a wrecked home life, with her teenage daughter living with Megan’s ex (guest Jeffrey Nordling, another “Desperate Housewives” alum).
OK, so none of this will win any points for originality, and the supporting cast — including “Star Trek: Voyager’s” Jeri Ryan, an odd choice as Hunt’s boss; and Nicholas Bishop as her square-jawed partner in (investigating) crime — is about as vanilla as it gets. The show will thus ultimately sink or swim on its protagonist, and while it’s a long way back to her TV-medicine internship on “China Beach,” Delany can still make scrubs and dialogue about fatal drug combinations and post-mortem wounds sound surprisingly interesting.
In terms of peripheral factors in “Body’s” favor, none of the broadcast nets (including timeslot predecessor “Detroit 1-8-7”) have been setting the world on fire at 10 o’clock, lowering expectations for any new drama. And given the sizable audience that disperses after CBS’ “NCIS” block, there would seem to be room for a procedural competitor Tuesdays opposite “The Good Wife.”
As for whether “Proof” can fill that prescription, the lingering mystery is whether Delany will prove a powerful enough draw as what amounts to the show’s one live body, surrounded mostly by stiffs.