Crime procedurals exist in such abundance that the challenge has become how to dribble new dabs of paint around a chalk outline. “Motive” — another Canadian import receiving a summer showcase on ABC — seeks to brighten up the formula, unsuccessfully, by shifting the focus from “who”-dunit to “why.” It’s an exceedingly mild tweak, with Kristin Lehman (most recently off “The Killing”) as the hard-bitten detective providing the only real incentive to tune in. While the network has found a steady utility player in “Rookie Blue,” getting lucky twice would merit a trip to Vegas, not Vancouver.
Crafted by “Dexter” producer Daniel Cerone, “Motive” begins by almost immediately introducing “THE KILLER” (it’s right there, in all caps on the screen) and “THE VICTIM.” Next, it’s body time, which sets in motion Lehman’s Det. Angie Flynn and her bickering partner (Louis Ferreira), who is kind of bad at his job.
For whatever reason, both of the initial killings involve a teenager: In the first, a high-school student is responsible for the death of a teacher, while in the second, a young girl is run over by a mayoral candidate. While the show does build some suspense regarding the motive, in neither case is the “aha” moment particularly stirring.
“Motive” also betrays its Great White Northern roots, from a closeup of a search warrant written in French as well as English to the conspicuous accents, such as a suspect who demands, “What’s this all aboot?”
Lehman’s character is allowed to exhibit a bit of a personal life, but for the most part the series doesn’t stray far from its criminal motif. Nor do other members of the squad have enough material to register beyond a blip.
“Motive” will get a boost by premiering behind “Dancing With the Stars,” before shifting to Thursdays paired with “Rookie Blue,” creating what ABC hopes will be a winning Canadian combo. While acceptable as summer filler, it’s the sort of show where financial advantages built into the license fee clearly outweigh the creative merits. That might create a scheduling incentive for ABC, but for viewers, the show doesn’t provide much of a, well, you know.
Series; ABC, Mon. May 20, 9 p.m.
Filmed in Vancouver by Foundation Features and Lark Prods. in association with Bell Media and distributed by NBCUniversal Intl. Executive producers, Daniel Cerone, James Thorpe, Louise Clark, Rob Merilees, Rob LaBelle, Erin Haskett, Lindsay Macadam; co-executive producers, Daegen Fryklind, Bronwen Hughes; producers, John G. Lenic, Wil Zmak; director, Hughes; writer, Cerone; camera, Mathias Herndl; production designer, Don MacAulay; editor, Stein Myhrstad; music, Shawn Pierce; casting, Corinne Clark, Jennifer Page, Sara Isaacson. Running Time: 60 MIN.
Kristin Lehman, Louis Ferreira, Lauren Holly, Roger Cross, Brendan Penny, Cameron Bright.