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'Criminal Minds' doesn't offer much new to think about

Did someone say elite FBI team? Yes, folks, CBS is bringing us yet another unique crew of ultra-brilliant detectives who solve only the hardest and most perverse of crimes. But the Behavioral Analysis Unit of ''Criminal Minds" doesn't obsess over microscopic fibers and the angles of bullet wounds during their hourlong journey to make us feel well protected. These guys are all about psychology. Did the perp's mother love him? Does he like to smoke cigars?

On the show, which premieres tonight at 10 on Channel 4 before moving to Wednesdays, the detectives focus on the more intangible clues that can identify serial killers. They're all about profiling, and they're led by a world-class expert -- Mandy Patinkin's Jason Gideon -- who could probably figure out how many Freudian slips the killer made back in high school.

Gideon has just returned from a stress-related leave, but his instincts are as sharp as ever, and so is his wit. This guy is pretentious, as he is wont to open his sentences with the likes of ''Faulkner once said . . ." In the first two episodes alone, he alludes to Winston Churchill, Samuel Beckett, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Joseph Conrad, and Yoda. But his analyses are so right on, he's worth tolerating.

''Criminal Minds" faces an uphill battle to distinguish itself from the many other crime procedurals already on TV, most of which similarly borrow from ''Silence of the Lambs." It's not a cool-science show, but its crimes blur together with what we already see on the ''CSI" series, and its supporting cast is indistinct. Gideon's pack includes the requisite nerd (Matthew Gray Gubler), a sex-crimes specialist (Lola Glaudini), and a special agent (Shemar Moore). Thomas Gibson from ''Dharma & Greg" is also on hand in an unclearly defined role equal to Gideon's. They're all likable, but generic.

Tonight, Gideon and his team try to stop a Seattle serial killer while the clock is ticking. As is too typical on violent procedurals, women are being hunted down, raped, and murdered. It's boilerplate material, and the victim-on-live-video element has been done on so many crime shows it doesn't have much tension left in it anymore. Indeed, it deserves to be banned by the FCC.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at

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