CBS' Post-Super Bowl 'Criminal' Activity

If your network's chiefs give you the slot immediately after the Super Bowl, they like you. They really like you.

And CBS has every reason to like "Criminal Minds." This season, the Wednesday series has scored a number of ratings victories over ABC's much-heralded "Lost." As a reward, the crime drama gets the plum position following CBS' broadcast of the NFL championship game Sunday, Feb. 4.

The episode launches a story that concludes in the show's usual slot Feb. 7, with FBI profiler Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler) at the mercy of a deeply troubled felon (guest star James Van Der Beek). As Reid tries to psych out his captor, literally, his colleagues (Mandy Patinkin, Thomas Gibson, Paget Brewster, Shemar Moore, A.J. Cook, Kirsten Vangsness) search for him.

"I'm really kind of naive about all these matters, but I'm slowly realizing what a vote of confidence this is," Gubler says of the show's post-Super Bowl showcase. "Reid is the 'damsel in distress' in this particular two-parter. It seems he's frequently taken hostage or beaten up or put into situations that steer the team toward saving him, which I enjoy. I feel like the equivalent of a horror-movie heroine."

It actually goes deeper in the newest tale. Gubler says Van Der Beek's character "decides it might be more kind if he were to shoot [Reid] up with drugs. Not only is he being held captive by a psychopath, he's being forced to take an opiate of some sort. It's laced with a hallucinogen, causing Reid to have flashbacks that give insight into his past and what made him a profiler."

While Gubler brings some lightness to "Criminal Minds" with his quirky portrayal of Reid, recent cast addition Brewster ("Huff") also is a lively presence as new team member Emily Prentiss.

"I've always read about profiling and psychopaths," she says, "so this show is right up my alley. I had been watching it, and when I joined, they asked if I wanted to read FBI textbooks. I said, 'Give me everything you have.' The FBI books are a lot rougher than anything a civilian can purchase at the airport; there are lots of photographs of victims.

"I went through about three weeks of reading and having a really hard time sleeping at night," Brewster adds. "I got scared closing my eyes in the shower, so I took out the existing curtain and put in a clear one. I also installed a lot of locks, and I had some work done on my house that the real FBI guys have told me not to comment on. It was scary stuff, but I've sort of metabolized it now."

A former model who went to New York University's film school and "assumed I'd be making movies instead of being in them," Gubler "can neither confirm nor deny my involvement" in comical short subjects about the making of "Criminal Minds" on the popular Web site YouTube (search "Matthew Gray Gubler: The Unauthorized Documentary"). He may bite the hand that feeds him, but make no mistake: He's grateful for where he is.

"None of us ever anticipated the success we've had, especially in this climate of thousands of crime shows," he says. "From the very outset, everybody was saying, 'Don't worry. You're up against "Lost." You'll be off the air in, like, a week.' Then every Thursday morning, we just kept posting those numbers, and I don't think they ever stopped climbing. Everyone's incredibly proud."

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