A few years ago, during the summer, ABC presented episodes of a Canadian police drama called “Motive.”
The next summer, ABC presented new episodes of the show.
Then it stopped, even though more new episodes were being produced for Canadian TV.
But I found out this week that new episodes of “Motive” will be presented at 10 p.m. Fridays (Eastern Time) on the USA Network.
I’m telling you all this because “Motive” is one of the finest mystery shows I’ve ever seen.
The setup is a bit like “Columbo”: You know who done it, and you know whom they done it to, and you watch as Detectives Angie Flynn and Oscar Vega try to solve the crime.
The setup differs from “Columbo” in that you don’t know WHY the killer done it. Not until near the end, anyway.
In lesser hands, this could be just a gimmick.
But “Motive” plays fair with the audience in terms of clues, and it plays more than fair in terms of the quality of the writing.
Although it’s a little like “Columbo,” it’s more like a series of short stories, well-known in the mystery field, by a British writer named Roy Vickers. Vickers’ stories were about people who got away with murder – or thought they did, until some stray, obscure, unexpected clue tripped them up, and they were brought to justice by a detective who often wasn’t so much brainy as lucky.
What makes Vickers’ stories memorable (to me, at least) is the quality of the writing; without any pretensions (but sometimes with a welcome dry humor), Vickers gives us a well-rounded portrait of the killer, to the point where you occasionally almost want to take his or her side. We’re not talking Shakespearean tragedy, of course, but sometimes we’re not far from its outskirts.
“Motive” often has this same quality.
But even with all this going for it, “Motive” would be nothing without Kristin Lehman as Angie and Louis Ferreira as Vega. And the rest of the cast is fine, too.
I don’t normally plug TV shows – that’s what the networks have promotion departments for – but I think that “Motive” has been flying under the radar for too long.
And I hope I’ve motivated you to watch it.