Cast: Alan Cumming ("The Good Wife," "X-Men 2"), Bojana Novakovic ("Shameless," "Westworld"), Naveen Andrews ("Lost," "Sense8"), Daniel Ings ("Lovesick," "Eddie the Eagle"), Sharon Leal ("Dreamgirls," "Supergirl")
Airs: The series premieres on CBS at 7 p.m. Sunday.
The premise: College professor and former CIA operative Dr. Dylan Reinhart (Alan Cumming) is lured back into his old life when New York City police detective Lizzy Needham (Bojana Navakovic) needs his help to stop a serial killer. "Instinct" is based on the James Patterson novel "Murder Games."
Highs: It's hard to imagine anyone more appropriately cast as Reinhart than Alan Cumming. The nattily dressed, fast-talking and highly intelligent criminal psychology professor is the perfect part for Cumming. In much of his work, especially in the recently concluded series "The Good Wife," Cumming displays a knack for playing immensely likable and clever men who bend the rules while wearing a mischievous grin. That's the case in "Instinct" as well. Even though Reinhart has an oversized ego and can be cheeky and derogatory, he's so charming you'll want to know what he's up to next. Cumming is in top form in this new series.
The crimes Reinhart and partner Needham investigate all deal with abnormal behavior. Reinhart says, "A perfectly loving person can become a heartless person, given the right circumstances." Needham and Reinhart don't solve ordinary cases. A professor who wrote a book called "Freaks" on behavioral abnormalities isn't needed for a run-of-the-mill homicide. The murders tackled here are unusual and more intriguing than those in your standard, serialized crime show.
Lows: If a CBS drama about a hyper-intelligent crime expert working as a consultant for the NYPD sounds familiar, it should. "Instinct" has a lot of the same beats as "Elementary," the modern take of Sherlock Holmes starring Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu. While watching the first three episodes of "Instinct," I wondered if a crossover episode is in the works or if "Instinct" is meant to replace "Elementary," which was barely renewed and pushed back to a mid-season start in April. I hope not, as the Miller/Liu series has significantly more heft. While I enjoyed "Instinct," it has an "Elementary-lite" feel.
Some of its unbelievable aspects are troubling. Naveen Andrews stars as Julian, with whom Reinhart worked at the CIA. Julian still works in counter-intelligence yet is oddly always at Reinhart's disposal.
He also sits in a spy lair that looks as if it were designed from someone's fantasy of how a spy hangout should look. Monitors and computers are everywhere, as well as a conveniently placed plate of cheese, fruit and crackers. It looks more like the Batcave.
Cumming is believable as a college professor, but not so much as a spy. He's clearly had little experience with firearms, and his fight scenes are awkward. Not even blurry camera filters and clever editing can make Cumming look threatening. Fortunately, this series doesn't use much physicality.
Grade: (C+): Despite some issues, "Instinct" is sure to find a dedicated audience. CBS excels at making criminal dramas that appeal to a wide demographic, and that's exactly what viewers will get with this new series. "Instinct" is a mystery worth investigating.
Gazette media columnist Terry Terrones is a member of the Television Critics Association and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @terryterrones.