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ABC's 'Threat Matrix' fails as espionage drama

| Thursday, Sept. 18, 2003

In 2001, President George. W. Bush established the Department of Homeland Security to counter terrorist threats within U.S. borders. It was only a matter of time before that new government agency became the focus of a television drama.

ABC's new drama "Threat Matrix" derives its name from a report the president receives every morning documenting the greatest threats to U.S. security. According to the show, 10 teams consisting of the top agents from the FBI, CIA, NSA and DEA protect the nation.

"Threat Matrix" focuses on the team led by Special Agent John Kilmer (James Denton). A former FBI agent, Kilmer has authorization to use whatever he needs to keep America safe. He is even willing to stage a break-in at a nuclear weapons site to prove how lax security is.

Using such a sensational subject, viewers may assume that the drama is suspenseful and action packed. Unfortunately, "Threat Matrix" is a poor copy of an espionage show. A&E's "MI-5" is a much more stylish and suspenseful drama.

"Threat Matrix" suffers from cliche characters. Kilmer is the typical leader, who is stern, cares for his team, but is unwilling to show emotion. Denton is great at looking concerned throughout the premiere, but that is all he has to offer. Kilmer is forced to work with his ex-wife, Special Agent Frankie Ellroy-Kilmer (Kelly Rutherford). She's an expert interrogator and profiler who proves her toughness by stitching her own slashed shoulder with a regular needle and thread. The Kilmers share jabs about each other's personality and failed marriage. But deep down viewers will know they still love each other.

Mo (Anthony Azizi) is an Egyptian-American who was a former CIA operative. He represents the token Arab, which is the politically correct thing to do these days. Lia Larkin (Melora Walters) is the pretty girl who is an expert in forensic technology. Jelani (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali) is the computer geek who is actually really cool. Jelani also acts as the interpreter for the deaf Holly (Shoshannah Stern), an information expert. Jelani is so in tune with Holly that he knows exactly what she wants to say without looking at her to read the sign language.

The show constantly sports scenes of satellites floating high above Earth. It must be the only way to remind viewers that the team uses highly sophisticated technology.

This team is good. They can isolate a fingerprint from a terrorist on a public telephone. They can take film of a public sidewalk from security cameras and isolate anyone who is 5 feet 8 inches tall. And, they can take a photo of a dark, long-haired terrorist and guess what plastic surgery he had to turn him into a blond man. This creates a perfect

picture so a witness can give a positive identification.

The direction is so bland that to heighten the sense of drama the camera zooms in on someone's mouth while they talk. Actually that's all these people do is talk. They mostly sit at computers and talk.

"Threat Matrix" fails as a drama and espionage story. If viewers want to watch shows about government agencies or forensic investigations they should stick with "JAG" and "CSI."

Additional Information:

Details

'Threat Matrix'
8 p.m. Tonight, ABC

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