Picks and Pans Review: Unsub
updated 02/27/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 02/27/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST
UNSUB is a symptom of some disease in society. Here is a crime show that picks up after the dastardly deeds, the chases and the shoot-outs—after the excitement, that is. Instead, it concentrates on the grisly effects of crime: blood, gore and insanity examined in close, obsessive detail. One week we're given an "acute sexual psychopath" who "may be frightened of big-breasted women," and the next week we're promised a monster who could go on a "kid-killing frenzy." And every week David (Starsky & Hutch) Soul jets off to the scenes of these crimes with his UNSUB (it means "unknown subject") SWAT team: a tepid-hearted nurse-shrink who reduces evil to a clinical and clean jargon ("victimology"), an old-time gumshoe, a forensic scientist, a guy who just walks into rooms and feels things, and another poor guy who's supposed to provide comic relief (he always forgets to bring the doughnuts). Yes, that's just what we need after seeing close-ups of congealing blood: a good chuckle and a nice snack. But the show has plenty of serious moments, all Soul's. He gives motivational lectures to underachieving employees: "You better get your helmet and get in the huddle." He gives understanding to a depressed employee (who, like some morose M.B.A., complains that "I can't keep my life in the right column"). He shovels up clichés by the ton: "He's out there, that murderous bastard. I can smell him. I'm gonna get him." And he gives pep talks on positive mental attitude: "Cynics," he says, "make mistakes." Well, I may be mistaken, but I can't see UNSUB as anything more than a fictional extension of tabloid TV—of Unsolved Mysteries, daytime talk shows and the rest of America's never-ending video freak show. These shows present psychosis as a form of entertainment. And they're just plain sick.