NBC's 'The Irrational' takes an unexpected approach to investigating crime
Some investigators just have the knack when it comes to seeing the missing piece in confounding investigations. In "The Irrational," a new crime procedural premiering at 9 p.m. Monday, Sept. 25, on NBC, Prof. Alec Mercer (Jesse L. Martin) is pulled from the world of academia to lend his highly sought-after expertise to virtually unsolvable cases.
"The Irrational" is based on the popular book "Predictably Irrational" by author Dan Ariely, about the theories behind decision-making and rational thought. The series drops Mercer into active investigations in dire need of a fresh perspective. With law enforcement and investigators at a loss for tying suspects and motives to shocking crimes, the professor joins the team to lead them down his unique path of discovery.
In its series description, NBC notes that Mercer's "insight and unconventional approach to understanding human behavior lead him and the team on a series of intense, unexpected journeys to solve illogical puzzles and perplexing mysteries."
In the official trailer for the series, Mercer is seen very much at home at the front of a lecture hall, teaching one of his psychology intro courses before he meets a little bit of resistance when he encounters law enforcement. An investigator asks him if he's the "science guy," leading Mercer to quip, "That's Bill Nye. I'm actually the behavioral sciences guy." His sense of humor shows itself again when his theoretical approaches are gently questioned before he remarks, "Gravity was just a theory at one point."
What are the methods behind Mercer's breakthrough analysis of these high-profile, dead-end cases? Well, the trailer gives a glimpse into the theories he uses to shed light on where investigative trails have gone cold. Mercer shoots off a few choice $10 phrases like "predictable irrationality," "paradoxical persuasion," "attentional blindness" and "bereavement sex" as some of the things knocking around his head as he takes a new look at tough cases.
While Mercer is increasingly pulled away from his academic work as he successfully aids federal investigations, he does make sure to keep two of his best and brightest graduate students in the loop. Molly Kunz stars as Phoebe, a protégé of Mercer's who enthusiastically follows in her professor's footsteps, both literally and figuratively. Arash DeMaxi is Owen, another one of Mercer's students who gets pulled into his new side gig.
"The Irrational" also stars Maahra Hill as FBI agent Marisa, Mercer's main contact and partner in these investigations. Travina Springer is Kylie, Mercer's sister and current roommate. While the pair are close siblings -- they must be, in order to live together -- Kylie is more of a free spirit than Mercer, who uses his own creativity to shake up bureaucracies. Soma Chhaya stars as Jasmine and Ella Cannon is Lila.
This isn't Martin's first rodeo when it comes to the world of TV crime procedurals. He is probably best known for his eight-season run as Det. Ed Green on "Law & Order," of course popping up in the main series' many spinoffs over the years. "Law & Order" is notorious for its episodes' cases being ripped from the headlines, and perhaps that close relationship the series had with true crime was part of what motivated Martin's move years after he wrapped on the prolific crime drama.
In 2022, Martin began hosting the seventh season of "How It Really Happened," an HLN series that delves into horrific murders and their investigations. Martin told People last August, "I never thought of myself as a host, really, of anything. I rather enjoy being able to hide myself in a character. But this was such a cool project."
"It's amazing to be part of something where you're literally on the pulse of what's actually happening," he said. "These mysteries aren't solved, so they're continuously being investigated."
"The Irrational" writer/producer Arika Lisanne Mittman has some serious hits on her resume with one especially notable title. Mittman currently executive produces NBC's science fiction drama "La Brea," which has been renewed and is expected to premiere its third season sometime next year. The cult hit time-travelling drama "Timeless" came from the mind of Mittman, arguably cut short after two seasons. The most direct throughline from "The Irrational" to projects in Mittman's past is the Sherlock Holmes-centric procedural hit "Elementary." What is it that we love so much about smart-aleck criminal investigation consultants with all the answers?