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TV Series Review

"There’s a TV crew here doing research for an autopsy show."

"Who the h--- watches an autopsy show?"

"Talk about must-miss TV."

That ironic exchange appeared in Crossing Jordan , a poor man’s version of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. The acting is choppier. The dialogue a tad less creative. The plots more perfunctory. But much of its action—and gore—is the same.

The attractions here are blood and guts. Cameras glare cruelly into pried-open chest cavities and at gaping head wounds. Jordan’s hook is that medical examiner Jordan Cavanaugh (Jill Hennessy) and her ex-cop dad (Ken Howard) role-play nearly every crime. They assume the identities of the killers and victims, using words to bring the scenarios to life. Series producers turn those words into actions, which means fans at home watch gruesome murders over and over, from nearly every angle.

Morgue humor—in the most literal sense—plays a big role, too. For instance, Jordan’s colleagues crack wise about the death of an Elvis impersonator and sing sappy Presley tunes while they work on the body.

Much more significant is Crossing Jordan’s quest to create social commentary on controversial subjects such as euthanasia and miracles. When a body is found transfixed in front of the altar in a Catholic church, the priest declares it a sign from God. Forty-five minutes of spiritual hokum later, Jordan discovers the man was electrocuted. We learn that the pious priest contrived the miracle to fill his pews.

As for making a statement on the "right to die," Jordan begins the episode convinced that assisted suicide is evil ("Call me old fashioned, but I believe murder is wrong"), yet ends up an emotional supporter of "mercy killings," lamenting that she "passed judgment at a distance." It’s one of the most brazen attempts to legitimize euthanasia I have ever seen in a TV drama.

Crass sexual banter and skewed morals (defending her loose living, Jordan proclaims, "I’m an adult. If I want to have casual sex, that’s my God-given right"), drinking (her dad owns a bar) and mild profanity make it even more difficult to find anything pleasing about Crossing Jordan. More than just being gross and gory, this series is eagerly attempting to change the way our culture thinks. And not for the better. Truly must-miss TV.

Episodes Reviewed: Jan. 7, 14, 21, 28, Feb. 4, 11, 2002

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Steven Isaac

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