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NBC's new whodunit spices up the coroner's office but never rises above the predictably mundane.

The Sexy Coroner?


The trouble with mediocrity is that it's so ... ordinary. Anybody can achieve mediocrity. You just have to come up with a commonplace idea and execute it in a run-of-the-mill fashion. What you get for all your trouble — actually because you didn't go to all that much trouble — is usually pretty dull.

So it is with "Crossing Jordan," NBC's new vehicle for Jill Hennessy, formerly of NBC's "Law & Order."

Oh, they've hotted up Hennessy in her new role as Dr. Jordan Cavanaugh, a Boston medical examiner. Cavanaugh is talented and bold, and has a tendency to do her job and the cops' job, too, when it comes to finding out whodunit. In the debut episode she quit her job in Los Angeles just as she was about to be fired for being too brash and impatient. Now she's back at her old job in Boston, her hometown, doing much the same thing and irritating the bejesus out of her colleagues and the cops, just like she did back on the West Coast.

But the buttoned-down, pinstriped Hennessy you remember from "Law & Order" is now tricked out in designer jeans and tight tops or shorts and a T-shirt, the better to show off her long, long legs and her pendulous prow.

If the plots are weak, she can always dazzle the audience with body parts. And I'm talking about hers, not the ones she slaves over in the morgue.

There's a lot going on in Jordan's new life in Boston. She's back in touch with her ex-cop dad, Max (Ken Howard). They're both still obsessed by the unsolved murder of his wife, Jordan's mother. Max is not so fixated, however, that he can't take time for his new live-in love, Evelyn (Lois Nettleton), whose presence alone is enough to irritate Jordan.

Jordan finds some support from her angst-ridden boss, Dr. Garret Macy (Miguel Ferrer) — who has his own inadequacy issues. The office ensemble also includes the competitive Dr. Trey Sanders (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali), who specializes in not dating white women such as Jordan, and forensic entomologist Dr. Mahesh "Bug" Surivanandamupurimahat (Ravi Kapoor), who provides a bit of necessary comic relief, just what's needed around the coroner's office. (In the debut episode, "Bug" managed to infest the office with a flock of butterflies. In the second, his case was an old one, so he nicknamed the body "Mr. Stinky." In the third, his victim was a man who had electrocuted himself by inserting a live copper wire into his penis while in full S&M regalia.)

"Crossing Jordan" seems bent on making its mark with the sex appeal of its star and a handful of quirky characters, although quirky has been so predominant for the past few seasons that quirky just isn't quirky any more.

Executive producer-creator Tim Kring (NBC's "Providence") was aiming for a classy, sexy whodunit based on character-driven drama. What he got was a gratuitously sexy whodunit that never rises above the predictably mundane.

Airs Monday nights at 10 p.m. on NBC TV.

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