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Raines - Sometimes Detectives See Dead People Too
Review by Ernest Lilley
NBC Amazon Instant Video  ISBN/ITEM#: B000WPTS2E
Date: 04 December 2012

Links: NBC HomePage: Raines / IMDB Entry / Raines On Hulu / /

Crazy detectives. Maybe it started with Holmes, though looking at today's TV lineup, Sherlock is still carrying the banner forward with a little help from his doctor. Monk, The Finder, and for seven episodes in 2007, Raines.

I missed it at the time but discovered it on Hulu when I'd run out of episodes of Life to watch. I'm delighted that Jeff Goldblum did a detective show, and even more so that his character is slightly certifiable. Only slightly though, because Raines may see dead people, but he knows it's all in his head. If it wasn't that he can't control it, he might consider it all just his process, but he can't, and it makes the people around him nervous, though he hasn't outed himself (at least by episode 2).

What Michael Raines sees is the victims of the murders he's investigating. The nice touch is that they evolve as he learns more about them...and are often infused with some of his own sarcastic wit, dinging him for his many stereotypic assumptions. Goldblum may be a one trick pony, playing himself in every role, but that's a pretty good trick, and he's found a vehicle in Raines that lets him shine.

Raines confesses that he read too much Raymond Chandler growing up in New York, and though he wanted to be a writer, what he wound up being is a homicide detective. Evidently, his imagination has finally found an outlet, though he hasn't always been like this. He used to just be a brilliant detective with solid partner, Charlie Lincoln (Malik Yoba), until they "walked into something ugly" and Charlie didn't walk out. Not that that stops Raines from taking things over with him on a regular basis, though we don't know that he's dead until the end of the pilot.

The corpse has the best job, cramming an entire actor's workshop of roles into a single performance as Raines reframes the victim after each new piece of the puzzle comes to light. The hallucinatory guest star stands in for Raines' partner, which works very well since it's all about the interplay between Raines and Raines. There's a solid cast of regulars along as well. He's got two uniforms that do legwork for him, a guy and a gal (she's smart and Asian, he's white and dim...but this is a show about stereotypes after all), a perky civilian clerk/researcher, and his captain, who's worried enough about him to make him see a shrink, Dr. Samantha Kohl (Madeleine Stowe).

Fortunately for Raines, he's Jew from New York who tries to spin a Freudian fable for the pretty shrink, but she's no body's fool, and a Jungian besides. Since Raines is all about getting inside the detective's head this adds another nice layer to the story. Banter wouldn't be any fun without some quid pro quo, so it helps that Kohl has a secret of her own for the detective to tease out over the episodes.

NBC put Raines in as a mid-season replacement, ran it for seven episodes, and then didn't pick it up in the fall. Less wouldn't have been enough to finish the initial story arc, which ends with an episode named "Closure". More might have forced them to go over old ground, so seven might just have been the right number. Or not. Still, it's a nice series for those of us that like our detectives smart, funny, a little bit sad, and with a screw loose.

Raines is available on Amazon Instant Video, iTunes and Hulu.

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