Because this is a cop show after all, “The Calling” is content to fill Avi’s work life with sacred tropes. Yes, he has a boss, Karen Robinson’s Captain Kathleen Davies, who barks at him when he steps out of line (“You’re not here to save humanity, I just need you to solve crimes!”), but also helps of summarizing whatever just happened for the viewer; he also has a comic relief sidekick (Michael Mosley), and another, Juliana Canfield’s Janine Harris, who becomes his partner while observing his faith and admiring him for it. (She’s a mouthpiece for this show’s strange preoccupation with naming the show “Law & Order,” as if “The Calling” were delusional into thinking it was much different.) Each supporting role is played with enough charisma, despite the show’s is gradually boring. tone and visual palette that make Barry Levinson’s first two episodes generic work.
Adapted from the Avraham Avraham books by DA Mishani, this Peacock Original by creator David E. Kelley at least boasts plots that pique enough curiosity to see the revelations; it knows how to open up a big juicy question and let the suspects make their possibilities weirder. Where did young Vincent disappear to? Does it have to do with his parents, the bickering couple upstairs, the kids at school? The stories of this missing child, and later bomb threat, take on their own nonsensical charm. But the revealed plans show just how contrived the crimes must be, as “The Calling” tries to say something about the sinister depths of everyday humanity, but uses melodramatic shorthand to do so; what should be devastating here is just gossip magazine salt. And it’s telling that the mystery doesn’t need a focal character of faith to make them particularly more interesting.
Which brings us to how this series samples being special in that Avi’s attitude as a man of faith is actually one of its more wonkier parts. In some passages, it is almost played as if he has a supernatural gift for people thanks to his faith, such that he can imagine more details of a crime by holding someone’s hand or going into a trance while drawing. But that itself is only roughly sketched, and it struggles to create a healthy emotional core. Later when Avi offers his reflections on a crime using his faith, it is out of place, if not clumsy. He’ll casually say something like, “A famous rabbi once said, ‘The truth will set you free.’ That rabbi was Jesus Christ.” It has little bearing on the case, or the people around him, just him and the series that supports him. It’s easy to picture characters from other crime stories, ones less sentimental at their core than “The Calling,” laughing in his face.