Weather Updates

‘Criminal Minds’ spinoff turns Whitaker loose as lead profiler


9 to 10 p.m. Wednesdays on WBBM-Channel 2

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

I could watch these shows all day. Sometimes I do. “Bones,” “The Closer,” “Leverage,” “Rizzoli & Isles,” “Psych,” “The Mentalist,” “Law & Order” and its many minions.

They’re today’s equivalent of the TV Western. And like the crack investigative teams they celebrate, these shows are inescapable.

Now “Criminal Minds,” in its sixth season, has spawned a spinoff. In “Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior,” Forest Whitaker stars as the head of a Behavioral Analysis Unit of the FBI. His specialty is getting inside the head of the criminal, trying to understand the perp’s perplexing motives and predict his next step.

Whitaker is from the Vin­cent D’Onofrio school of prime-time emoting — understandable, considering he won an Oscar for “The Last King of Scotland.” He doesn’t profile the bad guy; he channels the bad guy. His eyes dart around the crime scene, then gaze into the ether. He’s almost mystical. Breathing heavily, he wants to understand what drives the criminal. In the age of Dr. Phil, bad guys get to express themselves, too.

Rest assured, there’s some deeper meaning involved. There’s no such thing as random violence on these shows. If you want to safely indulge your dark side, TV offers a fantasyland of felons. The killers are all attractive and clever (if not geniuses). The investigators are single-minded in their pursuit of justice. And you can count on satisfying closure before the end credits.

“Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior” is a solid addition to your evening lineup. If you’re a “Criminal Minds” fan, you already met the gang in one of last April’s episodes.

Whitaker’s main sparring partner is Janeane Garofalo, always intriguing when she’s cast in law enforcement. (I urge you to rent 1998’s “Clay Pigeons,” in which Garofalo is saddled with a dense deputy named Barney.) She suppresses her natural sarcasm here, but is skeptical by definition. She recently told TV critics, “I think there is something about dark-haired women with deep voices of ambiguous sexuality that plays into dramatic programming.”

She has a point.

In the first episode, the team tries to track down an abducted 8-year-old girl. Next week, they’re after a grisly killer. You should know that “Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior” is not only the kind of show that lingers on a corpse with its eyes cut out — you can expect a closeup of the detached eyes, too.

To ease your transition to the spinoff, “Criminal Minds’” Kirsten Vangsness does double duty as computer whiz Penelope. Her zaniness is a bit jarring; a typical line is “I am not the first tongue depressor in this database.” (Vangsness has said she got the job because, in real life, she “dresses like a 7-year-old pirate from space.”) I suppose that when you’re dealing with material this dark, you’ve got to go all-out to lighten the mood.

Since Oscar winners are now in the mix, I vote for the next spinoff to star Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd (see: “Kiss the Girls”). But Whitaker and Garofalo will do in the meantime. Luckily, there are plenty of serial killers to go around.

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.