criminal mindsBinge watchers rejoice as Friday Netflix rolled out the first six seasons of the highly successful CBS procedural Criminal Minds for their streaming service. I’m tempted to say ‘finally’ because one of the frustrations about online content is that CBS is not aligned with the likes of Hulu and to watch the viewer must either tune in each week or catch up on the CBS website. Multiple seasons of Criminal Minds, and many other CBS shows, have just not been made available, as the network has seemed to struggle with the practical realities of the consumer’s expectation in this streaming age. At least for Criminal Minds Netflix has now been able to deliver the first six of the nine seasons of the show.

One of my personal favorites, the series initially starred Mandy Patinkin, Thomas Gibson, Lola Glaudini, Shemar Moore, Matthew Gray Gubler and AJ Cook as the members of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit. Called in by local authorities when cases escalate, it’s an excellent base concept that allows the show to move to multiple locations, at least from a fictional standpoint, to keep the series fresh. NCIS and numerous other shows have followed this template to great success over the years.

Patinkin plays Agent Jason Gideon who is returning to the field for the first time in six months since capturing a high profile suspect. That success however had come at the cost of six members of the rescue team. That Gideon is ultimately a broken man is a theme that runs throughout the show as the FBI profiler grapples with the cases.

Best known for playing Inigo Montoya in the classic film The Princess Bride, and a doctor in Chicago Hope, Patinkin was, and still is, a well-respected stage, television and movie actor, whose association with the show gave the series a high profile jump in the early ratings.

Going back and watching the first season it is fascinating to see how well Criminal Minds got out of the blocks. Part of that of course is down to Patinkin and his stereotypical strong performance, but even in the opening episode you have Hotchner (Gibson) the family man, Reid (Gray Gubler) the awkward genius, Morgan (Shemar Moore) as the smooth operator with a sense of urgency, Elle (Glaudini) as the impatient one and Garcia’s repartee with Morgan. This before Garcia, wonderfully played by Kirsten Vangsness, was a series regular. One episode and yet the groundwork is set for the long success of the show even as we now know that Patinkin would leave in the third season.

Indeed one of the hallmarks of the show has been the ability to replace actors that decide to leave for a variety of reasons. Paget Brewster replaced Glaudini in what ultimately was seen as an upgrade by fans of the show, and Patinkin by Joe Mantegna, each with a minimum of fuss. Meanwhile the central characters of Hotchner, Reid and Morgan have remained the solid core of the show. But be forewarned, Criminal Minds is thoroughly addicting and it’s very easy to get sucked into a marathon session.

– Wallace Poulter