There’s a moment near the end of the “Stalker” premiere where a victim screams, “Help me, help me, help me!” It came about 40 minutes after the point where I wanted to yell the same thing at my screen.
“Stalker” is the latest procedural in the vein of “Criminal Minds,” “CSI” and “Law & Order: SVU.” It comes from the mind of Kevin Williamson, the man behind “Scream,” “The Vampire Diaries” and “Dawson’s Creek,” which is why, despite a premise that sounded fairly trite, I tried to reserve judgment going in.
However, this new CBS drama proved to be as trite and cliched as was expected, with the extra added bonus of gratuitous violence perpetrated against women that did nothing but produce a disgusted eyeroll. I guess “to be fair,” there is also a case of man-on-man stalking in Wednesday’s (Oct. 1) premiere episode, but the stalker does not perpetrate any violence against his target. In fact, the stalkee is the one who gets to violently triumph over his would-be predator. It’s not the same.
What’s more, the opening sequence where a young woman is stalked by phone and then burned alive in her car is so reminiscent of “Scream” that I laughed out loud (after I stopped grimacing at the exploitative violence). Guess it’s not stealing if it’s your own work.
Hackneyed premise aside, the lead Threat Assessment Unit officers present two very different problems. New LAPD transfer Det. Jack Larsen (Dylan McDermott) not only appears to be a stalker himself, but he also works a crime scene like talking about a stalker’s MO gets him aroused and says gross things like, “Why do you wear sexy things if you don’t want men to notice?” and “I’m sorry I stared at your breasts. It’s why you don’t like me.”
News flash, Jack — that’s not why we don’t like you.
Lt. Beth Davis (Maggie Q) is a different conundrum. There are a couple of solid aspects to her character, like her (initial) take-no-BS approach to her new partner and her kick-butt warning to a stalker to stay away from his victim. Q is certainly the bright spot of the show — though that isn’t saying much, especially in light of how by episode’s end, she has already relaxed into playful banter with Larsen. What a disappointing character development.
However, “Stalker” may do well. Its lead-in is the similarly themed “Criminal Minds,” which just entered its 10th season. “SVU” and “CSI” are the two longest-running dramas currently on TV. Clearly audiences aren’t quite ready to give up the ghost on needlessly violent procedurals.
But maybe, just maybe, as those other shows age into their twilight years, the audience will reject “Stalker” and this will be the turning point for networks continuing to trot out such worn-out material. Fingers crossed.
“Stalker” premieres Wednesday, Oct. 1 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.