For Tim Daly, Eyes is the prize. The former Wings star seems perfectly suited to play Harlan Judd, the wiseacre boss in ABC's new high-tech private-eye drama (Wednesdays at 10 pm/ET). Though it debuted to lackluster ratings, its clever combination of cop show, workplace comedy and nighttime sudser makes it one of the most unique series in prime time. Here, TVGuide.com gives Daly a thorough Eyes examination.
TVGuide.com: Eyes is unlike any other drama on TV right now, blending lots of different genres. How do you describe it?
Tim Daly: It's a fantastic combination of a procedural — how do private eyes gather information on people? — and a character drama. [That's] the thing that makes it interesting to me. These are real, vivid, well-drawn characters who are very human and flawed. That's what sets this apart. In a certain way, it's like The Rockford Files. Although it's definitely a 21st-century [version].
Daly: He is a guy who is very unique, unpredictable and unconventional. He's got a dubious relationship with ethics. I like to say he's "accidentally ethical." He would certainly never admit publicly to having any sort of value system, except maybe for the pursuit of money. And yet, at his core, he's decent. TVG: You're working again with John McNamara, the man behind your last series, The Fugitive. Did he create Harlan specifically for you?
Daly: After reading the script, I called John and said, "You wrote this for me." He said, "I really don't think you're right for it." I said, "Let me come in and meet with you." So I sat down [in the audition] and did what the character would do. I told them exactly what was going to happen: They'd talk to every A-level actor in Hollywood. They'd think, "That guy was good but too earnest, too quirky." It'd be movie actors thinking of doing TV, and that'd be a pain in the ass. Finally, they'd get to me and realize I was perfect and hire me. They sat there at the audition with their mouths open, and I saw them thinking, "Oh, my god! He's right!" TVG: You seem like a pretty funny guy. When you're in the role of Harlan, are you pretty much playing yourself?
Daly: Harlan's way of keeping people off balance is something I totally identify with. My default setting is to make people not know whether I'm giving them s--t or not. I think that I get that about him. He sort of teases people, [and] I love teasing people. Most of the time, I'm not mean about it. I haven't been punched in a bar yet. TVG: You're the boss in front of the camera. Does that role continue behind the camera?
Daly: I'm the joker/object of everyone's sexual desire/daddy. People come and cry on my shoulder. If they only knew — I'm the gateway to failure! TVG: Speaking of which, Eyes is going up against two big police procedurals, Law & Order and CSI: New York. Even though you're also following two big ABC shows — Lost and Alias — your show didn't debut so well. Are you concerned?
Daly: I've worked in television a long time. I remember a time when, if your show didn't get a 35 share [in the Nielsen ratings], you were off the air. Now it seems there is room for those who want to see something more adventurous. There's enough on TV for everybody. We're certainly being given a good chance. People who get what the show is about will have a chance to find it. TVG: Before you started filming, the cast met with a real corporate private eye. Did that make you happy you're an actor instead of a detective?
Daly: He gave us a lot of tips on how to protect ourselves, but being in the intelligence business for a long time left him eternally paranoid. I'd rather be in a state of ignorant bliss, frankly. I choose to be ignorant and trusting. Maybe that's a flaw in my character, but otherwise, I'd drive myself crazier than I already am.