The new CBS suspense series "Stalker" is like a PSA for the paranoid. If that’s your thing, tune in Wednesday night and move carefully to the edge of your seat.
The show was created by Kevin Williamson ("The Following") and stars Maggie Q ("Nikita") and Dylan McDermott ("American Horror Story") as detectives attached to the LAPD’s Threat Assessment Unit.
Lt. Beth Davis (Maggie Q) is none too happy to welcome New York transplant Jack Larsen to the squad to begin with. She’s already heard about his affair with the wife of a superior officer in New York. When he tries to break the ice by complimenting her on her appearance and staring at her breasts, she’s sure he’s going to be bad news. Larsen spends the rest of the pilot trying to win her over. It barely works with Davis —or us.
Davis takes threat assessment very seriously, though, and at the moment the unit is trying to solve a series of gruesome serial-stalker murders of young women. The stalker, in mask, traps his victims, douses them with gasoline and lights a match.
At the same time, Williamson wants us to understand that stalking is an equal-opportunity menace. So we get a college guy (Darren Kagasoff, "The Secret Life of the American Teenager") stalked by a former roommate (Erik Stocklin, "Mistresses").
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The two stalking cases in the pilot episode are moderately engaging, but the faux drama about whether Davis will accept Larsen as her working partner (of course she will, until one of the actors gets a better offer or the show is canceled) feels like exactly what it is: filler.
"Stalker" works hard to milk the kind common paranoia that fuels shows like "Homeland" and "Person of Interest." The world is a scary place, and we’ve become a nation of people waiting for other shoes to drop.
That’s where the PSA part of "Stalker" comes into play. At various points in the show, especially after the single effective gotcha of the pilot episode’s first scene, "Stalker" feels like a public service announcement. Don’t go walk to your car in a parking garage by yourself late at night. Be aware of your surroundings when you approach your doorway late at night and you’ve just taken a call from a stalker on your cellphone. Don’t drink that beer your former roommate-turned-weirdo is offering you as a way of burying the hatchet.
While all of these moments are intended to add to our sense of uneasiness as we watch the show, they actually make the show too predictable. One can’t watch Kagasoff drink that beer without wondering what Stocklin’s character may have put in it.
Maggie Q and McDermott are competent if not terribly interesting actors, and that about sums up the series as well.