It would be hard to imagine a series more generic in concept, execution, even title than “The Protector,” a showcase for Ally Walker. The skein’s otherwise meaningless name appears to be derived from wedding Walker’s old NBC series, “Profiler,” to its lead-in “The Pretender.” The pitch could have been delivered in the 1980s — “She’s a cop … and a mom!” — with Walker gamely going through the motions of a show that reaches for whimsy yet seldom gets there. “The Closer’s” conclusion might leave a void for such fare, but Lifetime’s tired retread poorly fills it.
Playing a divorced mom living with her brother, Walker’s Gloria Sheppard is introduced getting the kids out of the house, right before she and her partner in crime-solving (Tisha Campbell-Martin) begin pacing around a corpse.
Throughout the hour created by Jeffrey Bell and Michael Nankin, the narrative cuts back and forth between these two roles, but never once in a way that’s remotely novel or different. While the goal obviously isn’t to reinvent the wheel, that doesn’t mean you can’t add a spoke or two.
Indeed, the specific case in the pilot — a wealthy businessman with financial troubles who’s found dead, and been cheating on his bored wife — is as lousy and stale as everything else. Gloria exhibits her famous intuition, spars with a crusty colleague and scares the new neighbors, but there’s only so much Walker (who’s in pretty much every scene) can do with material this thin. That disclaimer extends to Campbell-Martin and an underemployed Miguel Ferrer as their cranky boss.
Admittedly, the whole career/mom juxtaposition in this sort of extreme setting will surely resonate with some viewers, but it’s so limply handled as to make ABC’s similarly themed “Body of Proof” look scintillating by comparison.
“Do you ever sleep?” Gloria’s kid marvels, after she pulls a maternal rabbit out of a hat and saves the day for him.
She probably doesn’t. But sitting through “The Protector,” I almost did.