In “The InBetween,” which arrives Wednesday on NBC, Harriet Dyer plays Cassie Bedford, who sees dead people, among other things you (probably) don’t. In the service of television, Cassie uses her various psychic powers to help the police – not the first series in which such a thing has happened, as fans of “The Medium” may now be raising a hand to point out. Creator Moira Kirland, who wrote “The InBetween” pilot, and was a writer and producer on “The Medium” (as well as “The Dead Zone,” “Castle” and “Madame Secretary”), would have to agree. But restless spirits have long sought earthly justice from beyond the veil, in folk songs or stories and such — it’s what they do, really.
And, lo, it’s happening again.
“The InBetween” (not to be confused with the Upside Down, where the monsters lurk in “Stranger Things,” another NBC Universal production) is set in that familiar TV Seattle that, apart from stock shots of the Space Needle, looks eerily like British Columbia. Besides seeing dead people, Cassie, a bartender by trade, gets prophetic messages of special use to the Seattle PD, where her foster father, Tom Hackett (Paul Blackthorne), just so happens to be a detective. These ethereal hot tips can be relatively straightforward or highly enigmatic, depending on how fast or slow the writers want the plot to move; in either case, Tom keeps the spooky stuff largely quiet around work.
He also gets a new partner as the series begins -- because that always happens -- Det. Damien Asante (Justin Cornwell), an overachieving Ivy League ex-FBI profiler with a couple of years on the LAPD, who might have some secret reason to want to be in Seattle. Tom and Damien will have to learn to like one another, because that always happens, too. And Damien will have to learn to like Cassie, because she comes with the package.
A couple mild spoilers that aren’t really spoilers: Cassie has a teenage girl (Sarah Abbott) hanging out at her house, whom you may take as a relative or a neighbor for a second or two; but by the time she walks through Damien 12 minutes into the pilot, you will have already guessed her ethereal status. (It’s the most interesting relationship in the series.) There is also, in the land of the dead but not departed, a serial killer (Sean Bolger), a sort of cornpone Hannibal Lecter to Cassie’s Clarice, who sings a terrible, presumably creepy song about Peter Rabbit and Little Boy Blue and the Little Red Hen, like something he got out of the Serial Killer’s Handbook.
“Guess you and me make a pretty good team,” he will say.
“We’re not a team,” she will respond, though, you know, maybe they are.
Though her psychic visitations are said to be “rough on her,” Cassie is surprisingly insouciant about the miserable dead in her life, and seemingly quite accustomed to being a tool of the universe – or that portion of it concerned with Seattle-area criminal justice. Though unbidden visions may panic her while they occur (and “this stuff only happens when the universe wants it to happen”), Cassie seems pretty composed afterward, mass purchases of alcohol and at least one blackout notwithstanding. That all may worsen, of course, now that a television series has begun.
The plotting of the cases in the two episodes available for review is pretty predictable, and because one can see so far down the road – you may feel psychic yourself at times – the series lacks urgency, even when we are told that things are urgent. And because it is a detective show like other detective shows, we know from experience that necessary information will show up, never too quickly, but always as needed. That is not necessarily a bad thing, if you like your thrillers diverting but not distressing.
Wobbly start notwithstanding, there’s some potential for drama and, better, comedy among the characters. Besides those you’ve already met in this review, there is the usual complement of catalog-model cops down at the station house, and Tom’s husband, Brian (Michael B. Silver), a doctor yet, who doesn’t care for the universe and Tom putting Cassie in harm’s way. (“I’d give anything to free her from this, Brian, you know that,” says Tom, “but I can’t ignore information that could help solve a murder. and neither could she.”)
What “The InBetween” has going for it mainly is Dyer, one of those Australians, like Anna Torv on “Fringe” or Yvonne Strahovski on “Chuck,” who make charming Americans on television. Darkness has become the default setting in supernatural fiction, but there is a sunniness to Dyer’s performance that lightens the series around her, keeping in check its goofy graphic unpleasantness and tendency toward cliché. (This is yet another fictional place where people say things like, “It’s personal,” or “Let’s get this photo on the wire — I want it seen by every bus driver, train conductor, cab and car service in town,” or “The killer was also a victim.”)
To the extent it lets its star shine and can laugh at itself, “The InBetween” may prove a decent enough place to hang out and not think hard. This, too, is television.
When: 10 p.m. Wednesday
Rating: TV-14-LV (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14 with advisories for coarse language and violence)
Follow Robert Lloyd on Twitter @LATimesTVLloyd