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Reviewed by Will Harris
im Kring became an instant idol of the comic-book community when he created NBC’s hit sci-fi drama, “Heroes,” but when looking back over his earlier achievements, it might seem incongruous that he was also responsible for the inception of “Crossing Jordan.” The life and times of a swinging single medical examiner and a drama about a bunch of people developing superhuman abilities? Yeah, that’s definitely some stylistic diversity.
Or is it?
Actually, those who’ve actually watched both shows – and, granted, it’s probable that there isn’t a huge crossover between the two series – know that “Heroes” is, at its core, a show about family, friends, and the similarities that bond them together. Certainly, the same is true of “Crossing Jordan,” which delves into the lives of an office full of medical examiners in Boston. When you live the life of a coroner, it’s easy to get jaded to such concepts as life and death; after all, you’re constantly reminded that people of all ages, colors and creeds die every day. If that’s not an immediate bond, I don’t know what is.
The series does take a little bit of time to really get rolling, however. When “Crossing Jordan” was originally pitched to NBC, one presumes that the spotlight was on the title character: Jordan Cavanaugh (Jill Hennessy). As such, a great deal of time is spent on her personal life, including her attempts at dating and her relationship with her father (Ken Howard) and his new girlfriend. The bond between father and daughter – he’s a former cop, she’s a medical examiner with the police department – is one that none shall tear asunder, which would explain why Daddy dearest is a swinging single pretty soon into the season. Jordan also utilizes her father’s criminology skills by teaming with him on cases, where she allows him to familiarize himself with the crime, and then the two role play as killer and victim, leading the viewer to witness a recreation of the crime. But while these sequences may be a hallmark of the show’s look, more often than not, it just feels gimmicky. Thankfully, within a few episodes, “Crossing Jordan” settles into a groove where it’s utilizing the other members of its ensemble cast, which, one might reasonably presume, was Kring’s plan all along.
From the first episode, it’s clear that Dr. Garret Macy (Miguel Ferrer) is going to be a major player in the series. He’s Jordan’s boss and longtime friend, and although he greets her with good cheer and welcomes her back to the department, it’s pretty clear that he’s in a major rut himself, both professionally and personally. He’s divorced, has a teenaged daughter whose feelings toward him tend to range from indifference to loathing, and feels like he’s locked into his position at the department for the long haul. In other words, there’s a lot of plot potential with this guy, particularly when it becomes clear that there’s a mutual attraction between him and his eternally-optimistic co-worker Lily Lebowski (Kathryn Hahn). Regularly teaming up on cases are Dr. Mahesh Vijayaraghavensatyanaryanamurthy (Ravi Kapoor), who’s thankfully known more often by the nickname “Bug” because of his knowledge and criminological use of insects, and Dr. Trey Sanders (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali), with the duo often receiving aid from fellow criminologist Nigel Townshend (Steve Valentine). The trio regularly find themselves dealing with unique deaths, with a highlight being an Elvis impersonator who may or may not have actually been the real King. We learn bits and pieces about each of their lives as the season progresses.
Yes, Jordan takes the spotlight as often as not, but there’s always an interesting subplot – generally vaguely comedic, but not always – with the other cast members. There are also well-utilized guest stars as well, including Carl Reiner as Dr. Macy’s father, Jack Klugman in a memorable turn as an aging medical examiner (though, alas, his name isn’t Quincy), a recurring role for Wallace Shawn as the department’s resident shrink, and about halfway through the season, Jerry O’Connell enters the picture for the first time as Detective Woody Hoyt. (He doesn’t become a regular for several years yet, though.)
Now that it’s finally out on DVD, those who’ve enjoyed “Heroes,” but haven’t taken the time to familiarize themselves with anything else on Tim Kring’s resume, should definitely give “Crossing Jordan: Season 1” a shot.
Special Features: Kudos to Universal for giving the fans of “Crossing Jordan” a really nice bunch of bonuses, but the real applause should be directed toward Tim Kring and Alan Arkush, both of whom are in residence for audio commentaries as well as on-camera sit-downs with the various cast members. There are four commentaries, each of which also includes the show’s musical composers, Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman, and the actors who revisit their memories of the series, include Jill Hennessy, Steve Valentine, Ravi Kapoor, Kathryn Hahn and Miguel Ferrer; also chiming in is producer Dennis Hammer. There are also a considerable number of deleted scenes included.