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Motive: You've heard the hype, but this police procedural's intentions are fuzzy at best

It couldn't get any bigger than this. No way. It's Super Bowl Sunday and, as sure as the sun will rise on Monday morning, there will be an announcement that a gazillion people watched Super Bowl XLVII (Sunday, CBS, CTV, 6:30 p.m.) as the Baltimore Ravens played against the San Francisco 49ers.

Possibly it will be announced that the ratings indicate a gazillion-and-a-bit watched it. Eventually, there will be news reports that an eccentric in Portland, Ore., went out for a walk and declined to tune in. Television news crews will swarm the eccentric's house and ask for interviews.

In Canada, it will be 10 per cent of a gazillion people. And that audience, if they sit round till the end, will see a spanking new, heavily promoted Canadian cop show appear on their screens.

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Hype about Motive (Sunday, CTV, 10 p.m.) has been ubiquitous for weeks. Ceaseless promos on CTV, online, and hereabouts, in the centre of the universe, on the sides of buses and billboards. This must mean somebody thinks the show is a surefire success. Why, just the other day it was announced that ABC will air Motive this summer in the United States. (Given ABC's record this season, that's a dubious endorsement, but never mind).

Even before that golly-gosh announcement, the fact that Motive gets the post-Super Bowl slot indicated it was the biggest thing since … well, since something really big. Like Corner Gas maybe.

Much has been made of Motive's storytelling technique. Really different, is the buzz. Different from the standard police procedural, where the cops have to find out who did the dirty deed and why, as viewers follow along. In Motive, we're told off the top who the killer is. Just so viewers are certain they are looking at the varmint, on the screen it says "The Killer." And then, inevitably, there is another person who gets the onscreen label "The Victim." Take that, stick-in-the-mud CSI.

As it turns out, Motive is slick, a bit silly, very stylish and disappointingly predictable. All that promotional money has been spent on a middling-good network-style series that is just a shade shy of a total misfire.

In Sunday's pilot episode, there is a lot of flash, much of it falling flat. After the opening sequence signalling the killer and the victim, we meet Det. Angie Flynn (Kristin Lehman, last seen as the mayoral candidate's popsy on The Killing) arriving at a crime scene. There's brief slow motion as she gets out of the car, the better to allow us to admire her superwhite T-shirt and what's in it. "Nothing says Friday night like a homicide," she says to another cop.

Stuff happens, presented in lurid high-gloss tones. There is banter. The scene shifts to a high school, where a marching band has been playing. "Nothing like the smell of sweaty polyester on a Friday night," a teenage boy says.

So it's definitely Friday night, you know.

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Anyway. There's a dead body and a killer on the loose. There are some fine, high-tension scenes before things settle into what is the usual police-procedural mode. That is, every cop is kinda zany and quick with the banter, except for Det. Oscar Vega (Louis Ferreira), who is a bit lumpen and slow. Actor Ferreira used to be known as Justin Louis, and, after working on some mediocre U.S. network series, he was very fine as a creepy killer on Durham County. Now he's Louis Ferreira and, with all due respect, the least interesting character on Motive.

Lehman steals the show as a brisk detective and single mom with an annoying teenage son. When Lauren Holly shows up as the medical examiner, the banter goes ballistic.

One expects to see more of Holly in later episodes.

For all the style and pizzazz of the first episode of Motive, it is unremarkable in plotting, writing and viewer engagement. When the crime is finally solved, the clue is one of the oldest, most groan-inducing clichés in the mystery racket.

Also airing this weekend

The Second Liberal Leadership Debate (Saturday, CPAC, 2 p.m.) promises to be a drama of sizzling barbs and zingers.

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Or maybe not.

Moderator Harvey Locke will also sit down with each of the candidates: David Bertschi, Martin Cauchon, Deborah Coyne, Marc Garneau, Martha Hall Findlay, Karen McCrimmon, Joyce Murray, George Takach and Justin Trudeau "to see where they stand on issues of national importance." Or get their Super Bowl picks.

Girls (Saturday, HBO Canada 10:05 p.m.) airs tonight thanks to Super Bowl's taking over the world on Sunday. It's followed by a new episode of Enlightened at 10:35 p.m. Both shows will air again on Sunday in their regular time slots of 9 and 9:30 p.m., respectively.

This week's Girls is excellent. Totally.

All times ET. Check local listings.

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About the Author
Television critic

John Doyle is The Globe and Mail's television critic. His column appears in the Review section Monday to Thursday and on Saturday. He has been the paper's critic since 2000. More

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