"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Inspector Mom—Mysteriously Good

Danica McKellar, who plays the title character of Lifetime TV program Inspector Mom

Confession time: I make a habit of not watching the Lifetime TV network, which appears to be aimed at left-of-center suburban soccer moms. However, the title of new Lifetime series, Inspector Mom, grabbed my attention, so I took a look at the pilot.

And what do you know? It was kind of fun.

Danica McKellar (The Wonder Years) plays Maddie Monroe, a—guess what?—soccer mom who's trying to juggle childraising and a part-time career as a newspaper columnist, known as Inspector Mom. She is in fact a former topnotch investigative journalist who quit her job and went down to part time work in order to raise her children.

And guess what? She's perfectly happy with her choice. That's definitely a point in the show's favor. Of course, she happens to be a born supersleuth who can't help getting involved in murder investigations in suburban America—such as the killing of a nasty, womanizing soccer coach (in the pilot episode), a judge in a baking competition, and a little old lady down the road. The show covers some of the same ground as the BBC TV series Murder in Suburbia, but with a good deal less archness and sense of superiority. That's to the good also.

McKellar is appealingly practical, hardnosed, curious, and cheerful in the pilot episode, and although the mystery isn't particularly challenging, the atmosphere is both interesting and realistic—parents will well recognize, for example, the politics surrounding the soccer team—and her goofy friends are highly recognizable contemporary suburban types. The pilot shows a nice, light touch and provides a diverting and sometimes quirky entertainment while giving the gray cells a little exercise. No, it's not deep or transgressive, and that actually helps make Inspector Mom a fun show to watch.

In addition, the values suggested by the program are highly salutary. Maddie's family, at the center of the narrative, is a basically healthy one with normal American problems—another real breath of fresh air on American TV. And after the mystery is solved and the family sits down together at the dining table to enjoy ice cream sundaes, they pray their thanks to God for the treat and for the good things they get to share.

It's a show that nicely combines charm, normality, and adventure. The pilot is not scheduled for any additional showings in the near future, but the series is being presented on Lifetime's website and can be watched at any time. There are eight "webisodes" available currently with a couple more to come. You can watch them here. You might well enjoy them.

From Karnick on Culture.

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