We gave it a B+
No grimy, yellow-papered PI offices here. The bureau of Judd Risk Management is so bright and roomy even the skeletons of the stairs are exposed. This company is proud to air its dirty laundry! Leading the firm is Harlan Judd (Tim Daly), a breezy investigator whose attitude matches the decor. Judd runs a big, edgy, cool business; he’s terribly handsome, sure to get rich, and — unlike all those jaded, conflicted detectives we’re used to — he feels just great about it. Think about the boys from Boston Legal, minus the neuroses and nastiness, plus a cocksure grin.
This flamboyant new detective series is a bright flash among the world-weary CSIs and the darkhearted Shield. Eyes showcases nifty gadgets and niftier disguises — Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon’s detective, Nora Gage, poses as not only a hotel maid but a garbage collector and a randy boy toy?as well as a quippy lead who remains defiantly unruffled. The show isn’t breaking new ground; it’s simply airing out the genre quite amusingly, with a tone best described as Alias meets Fletch. The odd combo makes sense, considering creator John McNamara has a background in suspense (he produced Daly’s TV remake of The Fugitive) as well as comedy (he wrote for the offbeat early- ’90s cult favorite The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.).
Judd’s detectives crack cases with smashing style and a sarcasm so smart it has French cuffs. In one story line, an old college buddy hires Judd after his mistress has been kidnapped — and is revealed to be as crooked as the kidnapper. ”He used to write my biology papers for a six-pack,” Judd mutters. ”Clearly the evil took root there.” Judd’s the kind of investigator who’ll deliver a thief fast food and lay out his plan to nail him over drippy burgers. He’s a gleeful rule-bender who’s not above light blackmail. Most of Eyes‘ detectives, in fact, push the limits of legality — but they do it for the right reasons and are so joyful in the act you actually admire them.
Like the Fox drama 24 — as well as McNamara’s beloved 1996 corporate-intrigue series, Profit — Eyes has an overarching plotline involving office treachery. Judd’s old boss, Clay Burgess (Gregg Henry), a slithery former arms dealer, wants to buy Judd’s company and has set up a mole within the firm. (We know who it is by the end of the debut episode — but then again, the series might just be having fun with us.) Moral-free, black-on-black-wearing Jeff McCann (The L Word‘s Eric Mabius) lands the assignment of unrooting the mole — and is hellbent on making his discovery pay off for himself, if not the firm.
On the good-guy side is Judd’s love interest, Leslie (Laura Leighton), a lawyer charged with warding off a crushing lawsuit. (”God,” she mutters when flirty Judd asks if she has a boyfriend. ”Weird answer,” he replies.) Leighton, who rattled Melrose Place with her bratty, scheming Sydney, is just one cheery spot in an inspired supporting cast, packed with actors you’ll be glad to see working. Along with Mabius and NYPD Blue‘s Beauvais-Nilon, A.J. Langer (My So-Called Life) surfaces as a chary cryptologist who wants to earn her detective stripes. Rick Worthy, an Enterprise semi-regular, plays Judd’s pensive best friend, an agent whose stint in a psychiatric hospital puts all of his previous cases in jeopardy. (He’s also refreshingly matter-of-factly gay and has a suffer-no-fools attitude toward crooks.) Natalie Zea, who did a stint last season as Vic Mackey’s melancholy lover on The Shield, has a nice turn as an operative whose affair with nasty Jeff may have a very ugly aftermath.
The biggest surprise — and it’s a beyond-pleasant one — is Daly, who after his seven-year straight-man gig on Wings never seemed to recover his tang. Now he has. As Judd, he’s criminally charismatic, and seems more jazzed to be working than he has in years (a dozen to be exact — when he played swaggering cult leader David Koresh in the 1993 TV movie In the Line of Duty: Ambush in Waco). Makes you wonder how many other solid, unsnazzy actors would brighten up if they only landed a good, dashing, smart-ass role. Makes you glad Daly landed this one. B+