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Following clues to discover why ‘The Calling’ disappoints

Jeff Wilbusch in a scene from "The Calling."Heidi Gutman/Peacock via AP

I had high hopes for “The Calling.” It’s common for crime series to give us a detective who is a [fill in the blank] — a best-selling author, an army veteran, a man with OCD, a high school student, a grieving mother, etc. “The Calling” gives us a New York City detective who is an Orthodox Jew, a guy who likes to quote the Talmud and pray over bodies at crime scenes, whose faith and compassion give him insight into human behavior. Interesting.

Alas, the series, now on Peacock, is a disappointment, despite Jeff Wilbusch’s focused, charismatic, and slyly amusing lead performance as Detective Avraham Avraham, known as Avi to his colleagues. Adapted by David E. Kelley from novels by D.A. Mishani, the show turns Avi’s religion into an odd kind of superpower that grants him almost supernatural empathy. He can get information simply by holding the hand of the mother of a missing child. The show doesn’t dig very deeply into Avi’s method, or how his belief system enables him to perform his tricks, nor does it follow through on any of the ethical issues his unconventional methods might raise; it simply pursues the procedural material.


That wouldn’t be a deal-breaker if the two missing-person cases that make up the eight-episode season were more compelling. They lean hard on very familiar crime-solving tropes, cycling through red herrings on autopilot. Noel Fisher is a standout in the first case, as a guy who desperately wants to be a novelist, but one performance does not a juicy crime plot make. There is promise in “The Calling” — a man whose instinct and religion give him an edge — but it all peters out by the last episodes.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at matthew.gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.