Primetime Is Crime Time
“Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt For the Bone Collector” on NBC
Back in 1999 Universal Pictures adapted Jeffery Deaver’s popular serial killer thriller The Bone Collector into a feature film starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie. Despite the fact that the combined star power of Washington and Jolie failed to turn the film into a successful franchise, NBC has rebooted the story some two decades later as a primetime crime series with a much longer title and a less impressive cast list. Still, the network has had success adapting feature films before (Silence of the Lambs spin-off “Hannibal”), and the American viewing public’s tolerance for crimesolving on network TV seems to know no bounds. So there are a lot of reasons to believe the show will succeed where the movie failed.
The show introduces us (or reintroduces us, depending on what we’ve read/seen) to Lincoln Rhyme (Russell Hornsby, a regular on “Grimm” who impressed on the big screen in 2018’s The Hate U Give). Rhyme is a hotshot forensic criminologist (and he knows it) working for the NYPD. Unfortunately, an ill-timed encounter with a flamboyant serial killer known as The Bone Collector left Rhyme a paraplegic. Several years later, rookie NYPD officer Amelia Sachs (Arielle Kebbel from “The Vampire Diaries” and “Midnight, Texas”) stumbles across a crime scene eerily reminiscent of The Bone Collector. Has the notorious murderer returned?
Naturally, Amelia turns to Lincoln Rhyme, who’s permanently laid up in bed but conveniently surrounded by the most high-tech computer setup this side of “Person of Interest.” The angry, broken (yet still egotistical) Rhyme is reluctant to come out of retirement. But all it takes is a good mystery (and one commercial break) to fire up his passions again. In short order Lincoln and Amelia are partnered up and engaged in the titular hunt.
Hornsby does well enough as the infamous Rhyme (star of some 13 novels at this point). He isn’t nearly as dark as the character portrayed in Deaver’s books or in the 1999 film. By the end of the pilot, he’s already getting along with folks and cracking wise, spoiling a lot of the character’s prickly nature. For some reason, the show is in an awful hurry to move Rhyme from bitter, suicidal recluse (as he was originally portrayed) to only slightly cocky smartypants. Nonetheless, the character fits in perfectly on network television, which loves its supernaturally skilled crimesolvers. This Lincoln Rhyme is a familiar mix of Dr. Gregory House’s grumpy genius and Sherlock Holmes’ preternatural intuition. The show even comes up with some silly visual cues to show Rhyme’s superhuman brain working overtime.
Kebbel, meanwhile, is fine in her equally chichéd role of glamorous yet shellshocked young cop. She’s meant to serve as Lincoln’s eyes and ears out in New York City (even though he already has a Batcave’s worth of gadgets and a small army of tech whiz assistants). Their grumpy mentor/eager apprentice relationship fits the weekly formula perfectly.
Brian D. O’Byrne (from “Prime Suspect”) pops in occasionally as our heroes’ elusive quarry, serving as Moriarty to Rhyme’s Holmes. The Bone Collector is, of course, far less of a mentally ill, Jeffrey Dahmer-style serial killer and more of a Riddler-like supergenius, dropping impossibly puzzling clues at the site of every elaborately staged murder. It’s not remotely realistic, but it’s what paperback readers and primetime viewers crave.
How long “Hunt for the Bone Collector” can draw out its central cat and mouse game remains to be seen. Will our heroes wrap up the book’s narrative in the season finale, or will producers drag this out indefinitely? If successful, will the show have to undergo a name change for Season 2? Guess we’ll see.
Glossy, silly and awfully familiar, “Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt For the Bone Collector” is exactly the sort of unbelievable but entertaining crime series TV viewers go for. If you eagerly soaked up “Psych” “Tru Calling,” “The Mentalist,” “Medium,” “Sherlock,” “Elementary,” “Person of Interest,” “Instinct” or any other show in the genre, NBC has got your Friday nights covered.