Despite formula, 'Instinct' lacks chemistry



TUNE IN TONIGHT by Kevin McDonough


Is "Instinct" (7 p.m., CBS, TV-14) a new project for Alan Cumming? Or the umpteenth adaptation of a James Patterson thriller?


Cumming stars as a Dr. Dylan Reinhart, first seen as a comfortable, tweed-clad professor of abnormal psychology. He seems suited to academic life and is happily married to his husband.

But we all know police procedurals are not based on domestic bliss, gay or straight.

Reinhart's world is rocked when his editor (Whoopi Goldberg) informs him the first draft of his second book is a bore, a plodding theoretical tome bereft of zing. The other shoe drops when New York police detective Elizabeth Needham (Bojana Novakovic) comes to his class to inform him a serial killer appears to be using Reinhart's exciting first book, "Freaks," as inspiration for his bloody spree.

Reinhart immediately sees a collaboration with Needham as a chance to leave the classroom and get acquainted with his retired "mojo," commemorated in old photos of himself dressed in leather atop a motorcycle. And what better fodder for a new page-turner than a chance to catch real criminals?

Sadly, buddy cop partnerships require chemistry as well as interesting (or at least believable) characters, and "Instinct" supplies neither. Cumming is well suited to play the wry, witty sophisticate, but he's rather tentative here, as if he's afraid neither Needham nor an "NCIS" audience will get his jokes.

For her part, Needham remains a complete cypher. She's provided with sad backstories (the death of a lover and partner and even a sick dog), but they aren't enough to add up to three dimensions. She's pretty, young and blonde. Reinhart is a gay man well into middle age. Their lack of compatibility owes more to age and attitude than sexual orientation. Given someone quicker on the uptake to play with, Cumming might have an updated "The Thin Man" on his hands.

But that would require dialogue that rises above the predictable. Even the show's Manhattan setting seems generic.

And, as mentioned above, this is a James Patterson procedural, which means it's not enough for Reinhart to be a genius professor and a best-selling author. He must be an ex-CIA agent as well. And it's his background in tradecraft, gunplay, fighting and cliche-ridden banter with his old agency handler (Naveen Andrews, "Lost") that tips "Instinct" from implausible to ridiculous.


-- For the record, Sunday nights now sport two new series about unlikely federal agents. ABC's "Deception" (9 p.m., TV-PG) stars Jack Cutmore-Scott as Cameron Black, an impossibly self-involved former Las Vegas illusionist who helps the FBI fight bad guys using sleight of hand and vanishing acts. It's a pretty absurd show with little chemistry between Cameron and, well, everyone. But it's better than "Instinct" because it fully embraces its preposterous nature.

-- The two-night special "Aaron Hernandez Uncovered" (6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Oxygen) explores one of the more complex and tragic sports stories of the last decade from the vantage point of the late NFL star's fiancee and lawyer.

Born into rough circumstances, Hernandez became a rich man playing for the dominant New England Patriots, only to be convicted of murder and commit suicide behind bars.

A posthumous examination revealed Hernandez suffered from concussion-related brain injuries often known to alter behavior. Does this exonerate Hernandez, or only compound his tragedy?

This is the second prime-time examination of the Hernandez story. Earlier this year, "48 Hours" aired an episode based on the book "All-American Murder: The Rise and Fall of Aaron Hernandez" by ... prolific author James Patterson.


-- Second-round action of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament (6:30 p.m., CBS).

-- "20/20" (7 p.m., ABC, r) interviews the cast of the old and new versions of "Roseanne."


-- The daughter of an apparent suicide, a 12-year-old becomes fiercely protective of her adoptive family in the 2018 shocker "Mommy's Little Angel" (8 p.m., Lifetime, TV-14).

-- Petulant narcissists work at the top of the legal game on "For the People" (9 p.m., ABC, r, TV-PG).

-- The six-part series "Christiane Amanpour: Sex & Love Around the World" (9 p.m., CNN) features the globe-trotting journalist in a new role, interviewing men and women from various cultures about matters of intimacy, love and pleasure. First up: Tokyo.

-- Bill Hader hosts "Saturday Night Live" (10:30 p.m., NBC, TV-14), featuring musical guest Arcade Fire.


-- Scheduled on "60 Minutes" (6 p.m., CBS): interviews with Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.

-- Second-round action of the 2018 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament (6 p.m., ESPN, ESPN 2).

-- Ryan Seacrest hosts "American Idol" (7 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).


-- A pregnant woman begins to suspect her helper in the 2018 shocker "The Midwife's Deception" (7 p.m., Lifetime, TV-14).

-- Howard plays defense on "Counterpart" (7 p.m., Starz, TV-MA).

-- Bright kids compete on the series premiere of "Genius Junior" (8 p.m., NBC).

-- The Hilltop receives unwelcome visitors on "The Walking Dead" (8 p.m., AMC, TV-MA).

-- Ramon retreats on "Here and Now" (8 p.m., HBO, TV-MA).

-- Saul contacts an old ally on "Homeland" (8 p.m., Showtime, TV-MA).

-- The State Department stands up for tolerance on "Madam Secretary" (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14).

-- A trip back in stock car history leaves a driving legend's halo tarnished on "Timeless" (9 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).


-- Ronnie confronts his past on the season finale of "The Chi" (9 p.m., Showtime, TV-MA).


Orson Welles stars in the 1953 dramatic short film "Return to Glennascaul" (10:30 p.m. Saturday, TCM). Welles plays himself in this variation on the "vanishing hitchhiker" tale set outside of Dublin. The last film in a daylong festival of Irish-themed movies marking St. Patrick's Day.


Jack's boyfriend makes him uneasy on "Will & Grace" (7 p.m., NBC, r, TV-14) ... Kids compete on "MasterChef Junior" (7 p.m., Fox, r, TV-PG) ... Mateo's injury raises issues on "Superstore" (7:30 p.m., NBC, r, TV-PG) ... "Dateline" (8 p.m., NBC) ... Steve Harvey and Adrienne Houghton co-host "Showtime at the Apollo" (8 p.m., Fox, r, TV-14) ... A magician joins forces with the FBI on "Deception" (8 p.m., ABC, r, TV-PG) ... "48 Hours" (9 p.m., CBS) ... A vintage helping of "Saturday Night Live" (9 p.m., NBC, TV-14).


Young talents shine on "Little Big Shots" (7 p.m., NBC, TV-G) ... Homer tries to crack a case on "The Simpsons" (7 p.m., Fox, TV-PG) ... Holt hides Seamus on "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" (7:30 p.m., Fox, TV-14).

The spy who bombed me on "NCIS: Los Angeles" (8 p.m., CBS, TV-14) ... Stewie's therapy session proves revealing on "Family Guy" (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14) ... Questions about Karl on "The Last Man on Earth" (8:30 p.m., Fox, TV-14).


(Kevin McDonough can be reached at

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