"Normal people don't cut out a person's eyes," says a homicide detective turning to the FBI's "Red Cell" Behavioral Analysis Unit for help at a grisly crime scene. Depends on your definition of normal, because it's business as usual on Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior, an uninspired spin-off of the undistinguished (except in its degree of gruesomeness) long-running hit.
Want more Matt Roush? Subscribe to TV Guide Magazine now!
And so CBS's assembly line of crime-fighting clones cranks out another one, trapping a fine actor like Forest Whitaker as moody, empathetic team leader Sam Cooper and an out-of-place Janeane Garofalo as Beth Griffith, the team's social conscience. There are other characters tagging along for the grim and numbingly predictable ride, but except for the fact that one of them has what I presume to be a British accent and another one has rage issues and another one is a blonde (perhaps to atone for the firing of A.J. Cook from the mothership), I'm hard pressed to tell any of these cardboard entities apart from the drones on the network's myriad other franchise spin-offs. (The exception, as she is on the original series: Kirsten Vangsness as bubbly computer-geek liaison Garcia, doing double duty and working overtime to inject some personality into the proceedings.)
Still, the fact that we've seen this sort of thing a million times before is why it very well may work. Other people's discomfort being a mass audience's comfort zone, in a manner of speaking. In the two dreary episodes I screened, the psychos of the week — a pervy child kidnapper and a serial-killing mutilator, each with twisted back stories — didn't inspire dread as much as ennui. Because, as a perp is heard saying toward the end of this week's pilot episode, "We both know how this is going to end."
Which is why I'm taking one of Sam Cooper's philosophical asides to heart: "Just because I walk in their worlds doesn't mean I have to stay there."
My feelings exactly. Diverting my own eyes elsewhere, before I'm tempted to rip them out.
Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior premieres Wednesday, 10/9c, on CBS.