News Column

Ask not whodunit, but why, in 'Motive' [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (PA)]

May 19, 2013


What's on,You've got to love it when people are willing to mix it up a little. Let's face it: the traditional cop show has felt tired for years. Most are so formulaic that the crimes almost solve themselves.

But with "Motive," a new series premiering May 20 on ABC, the formula has been set on its ear. Creator and executive producer Daniel Cerone ("The Mentalist," "Dexter") likes to say that most cop shows tend to be whodunits, while "Motive," as the name suggests, tends to be more of a whydunit. And with Kristin Lehman ("The Killing") starring as Detective Angie Flynn, it's a mustwatchit.

"I always wanted to create a series where you reveal the killer in the tease -- hearkening back to 'Columbo,' which is considered the granddaddy of all detectives, and, basically, the whole first act was showing the kill," Cerone says. "I've always been fascinated with that model. But I was always reluctant to pitch it because there is the stumbling block, because if you reveal the killer, then where's the mystery?"

Good point. But one of the biggest problems with traditional crime series is that, arguably, the most exciting thing in any episode has already happened at the start of the show, and it happened off-screen: the murder.

By opening "Motive" with two little vignettes that introduce both the killer and the victim, viewers get the opportunity to play the game of "When did they do it? Why did they do it? And how did they do it?" Thanks to those initial introductions, we are actually drawn into their lives and feel a vested interest.

"Giving it away doesn't change how compelling it is so that I don't want to know why this happened," Lehman says.

Going back to the "Columbo" mold, when you know who the killer is, you have to make the game a lot more fun, Cerone says.

"With 'Columbo,' the fun was sort of watching this rumpled character slowly break down these killers and sort of prey upon their egos and catch them off guard. So for me, I wanted to try and find a character who was fun to watch but, at other times, people might dismiss because she is a beautiful woman."

"I just love her," Lehman says of Detective Flynn. "I don't love all the characters I've played. But she's a woman who doesn't suffer fools easily."

And while the supporting characters, such as Detective Oscar Vega (Louis Ferreira) and Dr. Betty Rogers (Lauren Holly), are terrific complements to Flynn, high marks need to be held out for the visual style of the series, which is shot on location in Vancouver.

The cinematic refinement gives you the impression you're watching a feature film. Cerone credits director Bronwen Hughes, who shot the pilot, for creating the look and feel of the show.

While we're not ready to call it the next "Columbo," we're definitely optimistic about "Motive."

Michael Korb is a writer for,TV highlights

for the week of

May 19-25, 2013,SUNDAY

7 p.m. on Fox

The Cleveland Show

When Cleveland receives an unexpected invitation from Freight Train to attend an event together, Dr. Fist thinks that dementia might be behind the older man's newfound friendliness. The kids' busy schedules have Cleveland and Donna feeling overwhelmed in the hourlong season finale, "Crazy Train; Wheel! Of! Family!"

8 p.m. on ABC

The 2013 Billboard Music Awards

Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Prince, Bruno Mars and Miguel are among the artists scheduled to perform at this year's event at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Prince is also receiving the Billboard Icon Award. Tracy Morgan hosts the festivities.

8 p.m. on Fox

The Simpsons

In the one-hour season finale, Homer, Moe, Lenny and Carl win a $200,000 lottery jackpot, but when Carl absconds to Iceland with all the money, the others follow him there to get it back. After she mistakes a dating site for a baking site, Marge is pursued by a charming fellow who shares her taste in television in "The Saga of Carl; Dangers on a Train."

9 p.m. on CBS

ACM Presents: Tim McGraw's Superstar Summer Night

This special has McGraw performing with and introducing a diverse lineup of artists that includes Nelly, Ne-Yo, Pitbull and John Fogerty. The Band Perry, Lady Antebellum, Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley and Faith Hill are also in the lineup.

9 p.m. on NBC

All-Star Celebrity Apprentice

Returning contestants and special guests -- including Gilbert Gottfried, Tim Tebow, the Oak Ridge Boys and Wayne Newton -- help the finalists put the finishing touches on their charity event before Donald chooses the winner in the season finale.

9 p.m. on Fox

Family Guy

Stewie's time machine malfunctions when he and Brian use it to catch a Bette Midler concert in Las Vegas, creating alternative versions of each of them -- one lucky and one unlucky. The Griffins are invited to join an elite country club in the one-hour season finale, "Road to Vegas; No Country Club for Old Men."

9 p.m. on PBS

Masterpiece Classic

In the eighth installment of "Mr. Selfridge," tragedy strikes on the day polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton (Mark Dexter) comes to the store. An even greater celebrity plans a visit, and Harry and Rose (Jeremy Piven, Frances O'Connor) attend a shocking play..


8 p.m. on Animal Planet

River Monsters: Unhooked

The channel's "Monster Week" is showcasing some real-life scary creatures. In this new installment of his series, extreme angler Jeremy Wade investigates reports of aquatic predators in Florida's Indian River Lagoon and Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks.

8:30 p.m. on CBS

Rules of Engagement

Talk about "when it rains, it pours." It's Adam and Jennifer's (Oliver Hudson, Bianca Kajlich) wedding day, but Jeff and Audrey (Patrick Warburton, Megyn Price) are a bit distracted; Brenda (Sara Rue) is in labor in the season finale, which is also the show's 100th episode, appropriately titled "100th."

8:30 p.m. on Fox

The Goodwin Games

This new comedy is about three estranged siblings who return home after the loss of their beloved father and unexpectedly find themselves poised to inherit more than $20 million -- if, and only if, they can adhere to their late father's wishes.

9 p.m. on PBS

American Masters: Mel Brooks: Make a Noise

The comedy giant behind "Blazing Saddles," "Young Frankenstein" and other classics shares never-before-heard stories about his life and career in this program featuring new interviews with Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Cloris Leachman, Carl Reiner, Joan Rivers, Tracey Ullman and others.

9 p.m. on HBO

Movie: Inside Out: The People's Art Project

French graffiti artist JR is known for his billboard-sized public displays depicting photographs of everyday citizens. This documentary profiles the 30-year-old artist and his epic global art project, "Inside Out," which empowers people all over the world to create their own social messages.

9:30 p.m. on CBS

Mike & Molly

After Mike's (Billy Gardell) mom (Rondi Reed) breaks up with his boss (Gerald McRaney), Mike and Carl (Reno Wilson) are assigned to the Renaissance Faire. With a tornado threatening, Mike tries to get home to share big news with Molly (Melissa McCarthy), who has some of her own, in the season finale, "Windy City."

10 p.m. on CBS

Hawaii Five-0

The season finale kicks off when an unlisted plane lands on Oahu with a missing terrorist detainee, and the CIA tasks Five-0 with finding him. Kono (Grace Park) is on the run from the police for a murder she did not commit in "Aloha. Malama Pono" -- Hawaiian for "farewell and take care."

10 p.m. on Showtime

The Big C: Hereafter

Cancer isn't funny, but executive producer Jenny Bicks and star Laura Linney managed to find humor along with the drama in the tale of a teacher, wife and mother with a terminal diagnosis. Tonight, the series wraps its four-season run. Will Linney's character, Cathy Jamison, live or die?

10:01 p.m. on NBC


Nora (Daniella Alonso) is tortured and left for dead by her captors. Monroe (David Lyons) learns about Rachel's (Elizabeth Mitchell) quest to reach the Tower. As he tries to understand why so many of his associates are being killed, Miles (Billy Burke) joins the mission to rescue Rachel in the new episode "Clue."


8 p.m. on ABC

The Bachelor

It may be called "The Bachelor's Funniest Moments," but this new special episode showcases goofs, gaffes and funny moments from both "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette," including some that have become fan favorites. Chris Harrison hosts.

8 p.m. on PBS

The Ghost Army

War, deception and art come together in the astonishing story of American GIs who tricked the enemy with rubber tanks, sound effects and carefully crafted illusions during World War II. This remarkable tale of a top-secret mission that was at once absurd, deadly and amazingly effective is told through the stories of the veterans.

9 p.m. on ABC

Dancing With the Stars

And the ballroom blitz is over ... for now. At the end of the night, one celebrity and dance-pro partner will be crowned the winners of the competition's 16th season.

9 p.m. on PBS


The high ideals of the Declaration of Independence that "all men are created equal" didn't make it into the Constitution in 1787. It took three-quarters of a century and a bloody civil war before the 14th Amendment of 1868 made equality a constitutional right. The far- reaching changes created by that amendment are spotlighted in the new episode "Created Equal."

9 p.m. on Animal Planet

Man-Eating Super Squid

Release the Kraken! This new special seeks out the truth behind the legends of predatory sea monsters and profiles the actual creatures that might have inspired those stories. The Humboldt squid, for example, is no Kraken, but it is an aggressive animal that's breeding like crazy.

10:01 p.m. on NBC


Nick (David Giuntoli) is called to investigate a series of brutal assaults. Renard (Sasha Roiz) tells Nick that his brother (James Frain) is in town. Stefania and Frau Pech (Shohreh Aghdashloo, Mary McDonald-Lewis) use their alliances with Adalind (Claire Coffee) to battle each other in the new episode "Goodnight, Sweet Grimm."


8 p.m. on ABC

The Middle

Frankie (Patricia Heaton) is eager to throw a graduation party for Axl (Charlie McDermott), but getting him to tell her what he would like at the event is like pulling teeth. Brick (Atticus Shaffer) has forgotten that he has a project to do as class historian in the season finale, "Graduation."

8 p.m. on Fox


Amateur chefs compete to become a culinary master and earn the title -- and very cool apron -- of MasterChef in the fourth season of this competitive reality series hosted by intimidating chef Gordon Ramsay.

8:30 p.m. on ABC

Family Tools

When Tony (J.K. Simmons) gets back into the dating game after a long absence, Jack (Kyle Bornheimer) makes a disturbing discovery about his dad's new girlfriend. Mason (Johnny Pemberton) asks Darren (Edi Gathegi) for help in the new episode "Book Club Romance."

9 p.m. on CBS

Criminal Minds

The Replicator, who's been stalking the BAU, ups the stakes in the two-hour season finale, targeting a member of the team. As he and his colleagues investigate a string of deaths apparently linked to the drug Ecstasy, Hotchner (Thomas Gibson) discovers his own estranged brother (Eric Johnson) is caught in the middle in "Brothers Hotchner; The Replicator."

9 p.m. on ABC

Modern Family

The family travels to Florida to support Phil (Ty Burrell) after his mother dies. Claire (Julie Bowen) helps him carry out one of his mom's last wishes, and the kids (Nolan Gould, Ariel Winter, Sarah Hyland) reflect on what their grandmother left them. Gloria (Sofia Vergara) has to deal with an outstanding arrest warrant in the Sunshine State in the season finale, "Goodnight Gracie."

9 p.m. on NBC

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

Rollins (Kelli Giddish) suspects the man she arrested for exposing himself in Central Park isn't who he appears to be. As the SVU detectives attempt to determine his true identity, he stays one step ahead of them. A shocking theory surfaces, and Benson (Mariska Hargitay) winds up in mortal danger in the season finale, "Her Negotiation."

9:31 p.m. on ABC

How to Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)

As he deals with his second comedy club opening and some legal matters, Max (Brad Garrett) reacts to the stress by arguing with Polly (Sarah Chalke) and eating everything that isn't nailed down. Polly has more luck helping her ex-husband (Jon Dore) sort out his feelings for his new girlfriend in the new episode "How to Live With Your Parents for the Rest of Your Life."

10 p.m. on ABC


Country superstar Brad Paisley guest stars as himself and performs with Rayna and Deacon (Connie Britton, Charles Esten) in the season finale, "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive" -- which happens to be the eerily prophetic title of a Hank Williams song.

10 p.m. on USA


When a woman dies from what looks like a botched plastic surgery procedure, Shawn and Gus (James Roday, Dule Hill) suspect something more deliberate, but they still think it's the doctor's doing. Complicating matters is that the surgeon is an old flame of Henry's (Corbin Bernsen) in the new episode "Nip and Suck It."


8 p.m. on NBC

Save Me

Beth Harper (Anne Heche) is just a typical Midwestern wife and mother until she nearly chokes to death on a sandwich. After she's revived, she realizes she is able to communicate with God. This throws a new wrinkle into her husband's (Michael Landes) plan to leave her for another woman.

9 p.m. on ABC


A teenage girl is killed in a hit-and-run accident, and Flynn and Vega (Kristin Lehman, Louis Ferreira) initially suspect her ex- boyfriend. As Flynn digs deeper, however, she finds a connection between the victim and a well-known prosecutor who's running for mayor in the new episode "Crimes of Passion."

9 p.m. on Fox

Toxic Office: Does Someone Have to Go?

Employees take the reins of their companies from their bosses/ owners for 48 hours in this new reality series. During that time, they are privy to salary information and other data that allows them to speak out about what directions should be taken and what decisions should be made for the betterment of their company.

9 p.m. on AMC


The local talent show: It's right up there with parades, high- school football games and band concerts on the village green as quintessentially American entertainment. In this new series, producers descend on a small town for four days and put together a showcase for local talent.

9 p.m. on Animal Planet

Swimming With Monsters: Steve Backshall

Hippopotamuses -- they're big and slow, they eat plants; how dangerous can they be. Very, it turns out. They're extremely territorial and aggressive and not slow at all. In the new episode "Hippo," wildlife naturalist Backshall is in Africa to swim underwater with these beasts -- something no scientific team has attempted before.

9:30 p.m. on Showtime

Movie: Last Days Here

Cult-rock legend Bobby Liebling has been churning out genre- defining hard rock since the early 1970s as the lead singer of the band Pentagram, but various acts of self-destruction, multiple band breakups and botched record deals have condemned his music to obscurity. Now, as he battles decades of drug addiction and personal demons, Bobby is finally discovered by the heavy metal underground in this documentary.

10 p.m. on TBS

Men at Work

Tyler (Michael Cassidy) is dating someone new, but she looks familiar -- very familiar -- to Gibbs and Milo (James Lesure, Danny Masterson), who try to keep him from finding out about their history with her. Neal and Amy (Adam Busch, Meredith Hagner) try to avoid the "anniversary curse" in the new episode "The Gibbs-Orcism."

10 p.m. on TruTV

Top 20 Funniest

"America's Funniest Home Videos" just aired its season finale, but if you need a funny fix, this new series is here to fill the void with laugh-worthy video clips. As you've probably figured out from the title, each episode presents 20 of them, counting down from funny to funnier to funniest.

10:01 p.m. on ABC

Rookie Blue

After three years on the job, the rookies are becoming experienced officers -- but at what cost? It's been six months since Andy McNally and Nick Collins (Missy Peregrym, Peter Mooney) left for their undercover operation. When they return to 15 Division, they quickly realize that much has changed, and like the rest of the rookies, if they don't adapt, they'll be left behind.


7 p.m. on Animal Planet


In this new series, wildlife ecologist and hunting enthusiast Karl Malcolm leads a team on missions to stop dangerous animals that are encroaching on human territory. In the opener, "Invasion of the Swamp Monsters," they're in Florida on the hunt for a giant Burmese python, the Nile monitor lizard and a small but deadly snail.

9 p.m. on PBS

Live From Lincoln Center

In the season finale, "Audra McDonald: Go Back Home," the five- time Tony Award winner and series host takes a turn as the featured performer, singing songs from her new album and other favorites in a special spring concert at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall.

9:30 p.m. on Cinemax

Movie: Red Eye

Rachel McAdams is a threatened airplane passenger in director Wes Craven's tidy thriller. The young woman is horrified to discover her supposedly charming seatmate (Cillian Murphy, "Batman Begins") is a villain who intends to use her as a pawn in an assassination scheme; if she doesn't cooperate, he'll target her father (Brian Cox).

10 p.m. on PBS


The new episode "Rebel: VOCES Special Presentation" explores the mysterious true story of Loreta Velasquez, a Cuban immigrant who was one of the estimated 1,000 women who secretly served as soldiers during the Civil War. Why has her story been erased from the history books?


8 p.m. on HBO

Movie: Magic Mike

It could be deemed the gender flip side of "Showgirls," but director Steven Soderbergh's 2012 drama about male strippers has more going for it -- particularly its basis in the actual experiences of star Channing Tatum. Here, he plays mentor to someone just entering the trade (Alex Pettyfer), and there's plentiful bumping and grinding. And less-than-plentiful clothing. Matthew McConaughey, Matt Bomer ("White Collar") and Joe Manganiello also star.

8:30 p.m. on Showtime

Movie: People Like Us

Chris Pine does a nice job in this personal 2012 comedy-drama about a salesman who gets lots of surprises when his father dies. Not the least of them is the sister (Elizabeth Banks) he never knew he had. Pine and Banks offer fine, deeply emotion-based teamwork -- a "must" for this story -- in a cast that also includes Michelle Pfeiffer and Olivia Wilde.

11 p.m. on PBS

Austin City Limits

The British alternative rock band Radiohead takes the stage, performing songs from its 2011 album "The King of Limbs." The set list includes "Bloom," "Daily Mail," "Myxomatosis," "Magpie," "Paranoid Android" and more.

11:01 p.m. on A&E


In anticipation of the Season 2 premiere next week, the channel is rerunning Season 1 of this modern Western. In the season finale, "Unfinished Business," the brother of a developmentally disabled Cheyenne girl looks like the obvious suspect when two teens acquitted of raping her are murdered. Walt (Robert Taylor) suspects there's more to the story, however.

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