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Jesse L Martin Irrational.png

Jesse L Martin Makes NBC's 'Irrational' Look Good

By Jen Maravegias | TV | October 3, 2023 |

By Jen Maravegias | TV | October 3, 2023 |


Jesse L Martin Irrational.png

It is non-controversial to say Jesse L. Martin is a smokeshow. He’s a handsome triple-threat actor/singer/dancer, but you most likely recognize him from the OG Law & Order, where he played Detective Ed Green against Jerry Orbach’s Lenny Briscoe from 1999 to 2008. DC fans know him as Joe West from The CW’s The Flash series. And the rest of the world knows he originated the role of Tom Collins, an openly gay anarchist teacher and computer genius, in the epic Broadway colossus RENT.

In 2013, Martin was attached to star as Marvin Gaye in a biopic about the singer. That project evaporated into the ether. But lord, it would have been spectacular. I think about that a lot. I also think about how sad I am that I never made it to a Law & Order party to watch him and Orbach do a little song and dance routine for everyone. I mean, I don’t know that that happened. But it feels like something that would have happened.

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Martin is back on network TV in NBC’s Irrational. The series is inspired by Dan Ariely’s book Predictably Irrational, and it’s about Alec Mercer, a behavior-science professor and “world-renowned expert” who solves criminal mysteries in his spare time. He’s got an ex-wife who is a tough FBI agent. They’re still in love with each other but have been emotionally driven apart by Alec’s inherent being. He’s a hard person to have a relationship with. Disfigured in a church bombing as a young man, his drive to fight crime is fueled by the fact that he’s the only survivor and cannot remember enough about the event to identify the bomber. It’s a plot device to explain why he’s always inserting himself into criminal investigations. It’s the guilt, you see? It also means that Jesse L. Martin’s fine face has a prosthetic burn mark affixed to it. It’s not terribly noticeable. But, it’s a shame to mar such a beautiful face for such a weak reason.

The show itself is perfectly acceptable background television. The mysteries in the two episodes we’ve seen so far have not been very complicated. Most of the complexity is in the explanations of the behavioral science behind all of Mercer’s experiments and observations. I enjoy some science in my criminal procedurals, and Martin is a pro at delivering the dialog believably with his trademark smirk. Even though every episode contains another clue to the over-arching mystery of “who blew up the church?” This doesn’t feel like a show that’s going to get bogged down in its own lore. It’s similar in tone and theme to Will Trent. There’s no dog in Irrational. But there are equally as stylish costume choices being made. We should place bets on how many jaunty chapeaux they can get on Jesse L. Martin in the first season.

Irrational is a “just fine” show that hits above its weight because of its lead. Come for Martin showing off his strong leading-man vibe. Stay for the middling mysteries and sharp outfits.

New episodes of Irrational air Monday nights on NBC and streaming on Peacock.