Crime procedurals have been dominating the television landscape for years now — with new police squads, murderers and interrogation rooms gracing screens every other week. Simply surviving on air among the competition becomes as difficult a task as adding something never-before-seen to the genre. So how does “Instinct,” CBS’s latest attempt at tackling that feat, hold up? Well, it features the first openly gay lead character on a Big Four network crime series, but without Alan Cumming (“The Good Wife”), the aforementioned lead, the show would be nothing.

Simply put, I could watch Alan Cumming stare at a wall for 60 minutes and still feel content with it. He is just that captivating and charming of an actor. It’s unfortunate, though, that that’s only a step below what he actually does in “Instinct,” as almost every aspect of the pilot is extraordinarily ordinary.

The premise of the series is surely one we’ve seen some variation of before: CIA agent-turned-author-turned-psychology professor Dr. Dylan Reinhart (Cumming) finds his way back into law enforcement after detective Lizzie Needham (Bojana Novakovic, “Satisfaction”) pleads for his help. It turns out that there is a serial killer on the loose who has been basing his crimes off of gambling strategies within Reinhart’s first novel. With every new murder victim found, the duo also finds a playing card that gives a clue as to who the next target will be. Even though the plot of the pilot appears intriguing on paper, when the time comes for Dylan and Lizzie to catch the killer, the whole ordeal is extremely anticlimactic.

Given that the first storyline turns out to be a disappointment, it will be interesting to see how the overarching plot, characters and entire show will move forward. If the series wants to go down the route of introducing a new, all too solvable crime each week and wrapping up each episode with a perfect bow, then “Instinct” is on track to be nothing better than an off-brand, somehow even more repetitive version of “Criminal Minds.”

In a twist of good fortune, the chemistry between Cumming and Novakovic shows that there is still a chance for “Instinct” to evoke some emotion through the development of their partnership. The two acutely feed off of one another and have the potential to work their way up the ranks of crowd favorite crime-fighting duos. With more enhanced storylines and revelation into their pasts, I could see this strictly work relationship go somewhere more personal.   

Hopefully, “Instinct” will shed more light on Reinhart’s sexuality later in the season, because with as big of a deal as it is that we finally see some LGBTQ representation at the forefront of a network crime drama, the pilot grazes right over it. That is, besides the comedically intentioned but lackluster scene where Lizzie assumes she is meeting Dylan’s wife, Andi, and is surprised to actually be introduced to his partner Andy (with a ‘y’). For as much as the series likes to boast how they are revolutionizing history with an openly gay lead, “Instinct” better show that narrative some more love down the road.

Perhaps the weakest point of “Instinct” is the name of the series itself. Ironically enough, absolutely no character uses their instincts when solving the first crime case. In fact, the pilot emphasizes how Dr. Reinhart deduces who the serial killer is by calling on his past CIA training and intense problem-solving skills. Overall, the title is just unfitting and only works to muddle the main point of the show even more.

We all know the drill: another predictable crime procedural most likely means low audience counts and a possible limited lifespan. But if there’s any actor that I trust to be able to bring a flatlining series such as “Instinct” back to life, it’s Alan Cumming. It’s just a shame that his sly and shrewd talent is, so far, underused.

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