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story.lead_photo.caption Instinct, a new crime drama on CBS, stars Bojana Novakovic and Alan Cumming as unlikely partners teamed up to bust crime and catch bad guys in New York. The series debuts at 7 p.m. today.

The networks know only too well you are a discerning (or fickle) viewer with many options vying for your entertainment hours -- broadcast, cable, streaming services, video games, organizing your sock drawer.

That's one of the reasons the networks hope that attracting a well-known actor to a project will pique your interest and entice you to at least give a new show a try.

That's the case with Instinct, a new midseason drama from CBS that debuts at 7 p.m. today. The big name in this one is 53-year-old Scottish-American Tony-winner Alan Cumming, best known for his Emmy-nominated seven seasons as Eli Gold on The Good Wife and as the host of PBS' Masterpiece Mystery!

In Instinct, based on James Patterson's Murder Games, Cumming stars as Dylan Rein-hart, a best-selling author and gifted former CIA operative who teaches abnormal behavioral analysis, or "Intro to Psychopaths," to packed classes of admiring University of Pennsylvania students.

Dylan is enjoying the less-stressful academic life when he is coaxed back into action by the New York Police Department. They desperately need his help in catching a serial killer who is using Dylan's first book as a motif for his murder rampage.

Yes, it's the ol' trope of the eccentric genius lured back to duty to stop the bad guy. Instinct is a little bit Sherlock meets The Mentalist, meets Criminal Minds, Perception, Castle, Elementary, The Finder, Medium and Monk. With a dash of Lie to Me and Profiler tossed in.

Featuring a gifted person tracking down evil-doers is nothing new on TV. Having the talented Cumming be that guy is. Whether you enjoy this new odd couple police procedural depends on the quality of the writing, the ensemble surrounding Cumming and acceptance of diversity casting.

I've seen three episodes and especially enjoyed the series' lighter moments and watching the characters deepen and the relationships develop.

What about diversity casting? CBS has taken some heat in the past for its lack of diversity in its series. The network apparently set out to make amends with Instinct by checking off as many diversity boxes as it could. Doing so with a heavy hand could have been off-putting for some viewers, but so far the show seems to be subtle about it.

For example, the show makes the mayor of New York a female, and Whoopi Goldberg (black/female) has a small recurring role as Dylan's book editor.

Luring Dylan back into action is ace NYPD detective Lizzie Needham (Bojana Novakovic, Shameless). Yes, Lizzie is one of those fetching female TV detectives who could moonlight as a model on the weekends.

Naturally, Dylan and Lizzie exchange quips, barbs and witty banter while butting heads at first, then mutually realize what a swell team they make.

More diversity casting comes from Julian Cousins (Naveen Andrews, Lost), Dylan's former CIA buddy who is a wizard with all the spook tech and "can get top-secret dirt on anyone, anywhere, anytime." Andrews is Indian and British.

More diversity (Filipino/black/female) comes from Lizzie's attractive boss/friend, Lt. Jasmine Gooden (Sharon Leal, Boston Public, Dreamgirls). Jazz, "the youngest lieutenant in department history," is pleased to finally see Lizzie working with a partner again. Her previous partner/fiance met an untimely end and Lizzie has been fragile.

Finally, CBS scores major LGBT diversity points with Dylan himself. He's gay and has a husband, former lawyer turned bar owner Andy, played by Daniel Ings (The Crown, Lovesick). CBS notes this means Cumming is playing the first openly gay leading character in an American broadcast network drama.

"It was one of the reasons I wanted to do the show," Cumming told The Hollywood Reporter. "I applaud everyone at CBS for having the courage to put this on right now in a [political] climate where it may not be the best time to do that."

Cumming, long a champion of LGBT rights, is bisexual. He was in an eight-year marriage to actress Hilary Lyon, was engaged for two years to openly bisexual actress Saffron Burrows, and has been married to his husband, artist Grant Shaffer, since 2007.

The relationship in Instinct between Dylan and Andy is loving, supportive and fairly chaste. They make a cute couple.

Finally, Instinct has canine diversity -- Danny the Beagle plays Lizzie's aging dog, Gary, and steals every scene he's in.

• Little Big Shots returns for Season 3 at 6 p.m. today on NBC. It moves to 7 p.m. March 25. The ubiquitous Steve Harvey hosts the family-friendly series featuring "talented tykes" displaying a wide range of skills and abilities.

• Genius Junior, 8 p.m. today on NBC. Neil Patrick Harris hosts a 10-episode, hourlong children's (ages 8 to 12) game show featuring 12 teams of three members vying for the title.

The TV Column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Email:

mstorey@arkansasonline.com

Style on 03/18/2018

Print Headline: Cumming starring in diverse CBS crime drama

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