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Originally 13 episodes were ordered. ABC cut the episode order to eight, but canceled the show after only four episodes. The remaining four hours were "fired off" on Saturdays, months later. See more »
ABC was advertising "The Evidence" - for months before the few weeks it was actually on - as a ground-breaking new twist on the crime drama. That twist is based on a gimmick where the show gives us the items in evidence - including the deceased's body - laid out on a table and described to us by Martin Landau in the beginning of the show, then lets us see the murder and how all these items come into place as detectives Bishop (Orlando Jones) and Cole (Rob Estes) attempt to solve the case.
The show is potentially unique in that if you don't switch over to it in the first 60 seconds you will be missing out on all the fun. The episodes vary in how cleverly the show uses this gimmick, but the best ones - and the Pilot is the best one - reveal that the true meaning behind the item is not what we'd expect. A cell phone number may not be a cell phone number at all. In that Pilot we see a severed finger with a ring on it as a piece of evidence, and then sweat it out while the ring changes hands wondering who the inevitable will finally happen too.
However, for the rest of the series, after the show's first few minutes it pretty much goes on auto-pilot. The prospect of being able to follow the evidence through the show falls apart with what could either be network or series director tampering that assumes that the audience is stupid or unable to tune in at the beginning of a series. Because we don't have a memory after all, the slightest mention of a piece of evidence triggers a flashback of it on the table for us. Once again, just as it marred the truly original "Tru Calling", the network's desire to pander to the stupidest audience member out there by serving us every detail on a silver platter with incessant flashbacks, prevents us of any joy of putting the pieces of the mystery together ourselves.
Given that the networks apparently think there are a lot of armchair detectives out there, why would they rob us of that little pleasure? And given that that gimmick is the only thing that makes "Evidence" stand out, what is the point of even seeing it at the beginning in the first place? Unlike "CSI" where "the evidence speaks for those who can't", "The Evidence's" use of evidence becomes increasingly pointless to the story.
As the procedural/crime portion of the show goes, well, that part isn't bad. "The Evidence" is a little bit sharper than the "Law & Order" franchise. Hell, it is a lot sharper than the inexplicable cable hit "The Closer". Personable performances and solid buddy chemistry between Jones and Estes give the show more personality than we're used to from a network crime series. Estes' Cole is obsessed with solving the murder of his wife several years ago - a storyline used to bookend most episodes. Jones does something of a half-star turn here. While he does still slink in and out of his wacky comic mode, we are seeing an Orlando Jones that is miles away from 7-Up ads and "wacky black guy sidekick" movie roles and is now a much more mature as an actor than he's ever been given credit for. I'm impressed.
But despite what a joy it can be to watch the two leads go back and forth, "The Evidence" never gets beyond a broken gimmick or build itself up to that next level as a stand-out entry in the already saturated crime drama genre, quickly running out of steam before the end of its already short run.
* * ½ / 4
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