When you see Steven Bocho’s name associated with a television series, you can bet it will be a winner because Bocho has created some of the best programs in the history of the medium. “Hill Street Blues,” “Murder One,” “NYPD Blue,” are just a few of the critically acclaimed dramas that have rolled off his pen over years. His newest creation is “Murder in the First,” a crime drama starring Taye Diggs and Kathleen Robertson as partners in the homicide division of the San Francisco Police Department. The 10-episode season, which airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on TNT, will deal with just one case, and it promises to be an intriguing one.
The pilot for “Murder in the First” introduces detectives Terry English (Diggs) and Hildy Mulligan (Robertson) as they go the murder scene of a druggie who has been shot in the head. The crime occurred in the Tenderloin District of the city, and as the investigation begins, we learn some background about each of the detectives.
Hildy is in the process of recovering from a recent divorce and adjusting to the role of a single mom with a 6-year-old daughter. She also has recently decided to enter the dating arena and has an app on her smartphone to aid her in finding eligible men.
Terry has problems of his own because his wife is terminally ill with pancreatic cancer, and her days are numbered. Although she is facing her illness with a great deal of courage, Terry is understandably devastated by her imminent death, and it makes concentrating on his job quite difficult.
At first Terry and Hildy think they are dealing with just another drug-related killing, but then they discover a clue that may link the victim to Erich Blunt (Tom Felton), a Silicon Valley genius who is the CEO of a rising tech company. Blunt’s relationship to the victim is a nice twist, but the plot thickens when a second murder occurs.
Early in the show we see Erich aboard his private jet attempting to iron out some problems with his company. Also on the plane are several of his employees, and Cindy Strauss (Brianne Davis), a beautiful flight attendant who apparently does more for Erich than just serve him drinks. Despite her obvious charms and attributes, Cindy comes into Erich’s disfavor, and he fires her. Not long afterward her nude body is discovered at the bottom of the stairs in her apartment. Is Cindy’s death in some way connected to the drug addict’s? Is it possible that Erich is a murderer as well as a wealthy techie? Stay tuned.
The first episode of “Murder in the First” effectively laid the groundwork for what promises to be a fascinating investigation. The fact that the show deals with just one case throughout its run is reminiscent of “Murder One,” Bocho’s legal drama masterpiece that first aired in 1995. What made that series so interesting was the glimpse it offered into the personal lives of the characters, and the same is true of “Murder in the First.” In fact, in an online interview with Carrie Bell of Yahoo TV Robertson explained the personal touch was among things that drew her to the project.
“I loved that they were exploring the personal lives of these two detectives as well as their work lives. My brother-in-law in Canada is a police officer and I’ve heard so many stories over the years about what it is like for him to live that duality of experiencing the worst of the worst of life and people at work and then going home to be a parent and husband. I always thought it was so weird that you never really see that explored on television, especially from a female perspective. I loved that this was Hildy’s journey. She is a single mom just getting back to dating who has to separate that from the very dark world she works in.”
Of course when you have a series relying on two main characters to carry it, the most important element is the chemistry between the actors playing those characters. Diggs and Robertson definitely have what it takes. In addition to taking their jobs very seriously, Terry and Hildy show a lot of empathy for each other, and this makes them very likable people.
Another element that made “Murder One” so good was the way it dealt with only one case for the entire season, and, as Robertson pointed out in an online interview with Jeff Peiffer, the same is true of this show.
“The series is not a procedural, not the sort of cop show where every week there’s a new body. It sort of takes place over the course of a time period where two murders are dissected, and you follow all the different components of what it involves. The first few episodes focus on the actual murders, and then the middle section focuses more on the trial, and then the last section of the first season focuses on the aftermath.”
In an interview with Patricia Sheridan of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Diggs somewhat echoed Robertson’s sentiment in explaining what drew him to the project.
“Yes, I did find something special and it doesn’t have necessarily anything to do with its success. It is more to do with my interest and my desire to participate. As an actor in this game, not knowing the future kind of goes with the territory. You jump in with both feet and hope for the best. I’m just thankful for the opportunities that I have had to have the chance to play another cop, and an ER doctor, you know all these different kinds of characters just get added to the list. And this kind of new, exciting perspective of one case that spans the entire season.”
Complementing the fine performances by Diggs and Robertson is that of Felton as Blunt, the eccentric genius and millionaire who is somehow related to the two murders in the show. It will be fascinating to see how his character plays out during the coming weeks.
“Murder in the First” promises plenty of detective work and suspense, and it already has thrown in a nice twist to earn the final score of an eight in anticipation of what is to come. Once you have met Hildy and Terry, you will want to share what “Murder in the First” has in store for them. Before it’s all said and done, I fully expect another Bocho triumph.