Question: Are you as dissatisfied with this season's Without a Trace as I am? I noticed in one of your columns you mentioned their best episode was "A Day in the Life." I agree — it was the best episode this season, but how sad is it that it barely showed the five main characters? This writing has gone downhill. I can't blame the actors, because they've shown that when provided good material, they do very well. The Martin addiction story line is painfully clichéd and an almost blatant ER rip-off. They continue to underuse the two best actors on the show, Enrique Murciano and Marianne Jean-Baptiste, and they haven't found a way to fit Elena in without it seeming like she takes away from the established characters. I miss the way this show used to be. The characters used to interact with each other within the framework of the cases. Now they just interact in these "very special episodes" where they put characters through unrealistic personal plotlines or they don't interact at all, like in Jack's strange romance with a recent widow. I can't imagine not watching this show as long as Danny is a character, but I'm very close to giving up on it unless they give him more to do. Do you have similar feelings or am I just crazy?
Answer: I'm far from giving up on it, but I'm including this because I've been getting a number of letters in this vein. I suppose my ardor has cooled a bit, but it's still my top choice in that Thursday time period, and it remains my favorite of CBS' many (too many) crime dramas, simply because the formula is less rigid, thanks to the variety of the missing-persons cases. And, of course, the quality of the cast helps. From the beginning, there have been gripes that this or that character (depending on the fan's preference) has been underused or poorly served, and that's to be expected in an ensemble show that's still primarily a procedural mystery most weeks. I do agree the Elena character has never jelled this season, but otherwise I'm mostly OK with the show, though it's not even close to being on my personal top-10 list as it was in earlier seasons. We may be holding this particular crime drama to a higher standard than its formula can withstand. I may not expect as much of it as some do, but clearly there's some noticeable disgruntlement among its still formidable fan base.