CBS introduced its version of “The Equalizer” after the Super Bowl the last time the network aired the big game, and programmers liked what they saw. So they’re capitalizing on that massive platform again to help launch a very similar series, “Tracker,” built around the likability of “This is Us” star Justin Hartley, who also helps desperate people – just with a mercenary twist.
Hartley’s character, Colter Shaw, finds missing persons (for a fee) and gets injured a lot in the first few episodes, which sure seems like a convenient excuse for having him take his shirt off (and props to his personal trainer).
Adapted from the novel “The Never Game,” the show has a breezy procedural quality – think “The Rockford Files” for our times – with Shaw tackling a new case every week, roaming the country in a well-stocked recreational vehicle. He’s dispatched from place to place by the team of Velma (Abby McEnany of “Work in Progress”) and Teddi (“Deadwood’s” Robin Weigert), who playfully spar over having too many dogs and transact all their business with Colter by phone.
Shaw’s extended circle also includes a brilliant hacker/tech guru (Eric Graise) and a savvy attorney (Fiona Rene). Aside from being a former flame, the latter comes in particularly handy, since Shaw tends to have his share of run-ins with local authorities that don’t much like having work-for-pay free agents descend on their towns.
The one modern twist in what otherwise feels like a very old-school series – aside from the amusing and diverse supporting players – involves Shaw’s personal backstory with his survivalist father (Lee Tergesen, in sporadic flashbacks), hinting at strained family dynamics and secrets that are teased out in serialized fashion using the storytelling equivalent of an eyedropper.
Ultimately, though, the show’s appeal boils down to Hartley, who spent his share of time as a CW superhero (including an “Aquaman” pilot and “Smallville”) before finding an extended home and a more angst-ridden alter-ego on NBC’s “This is Us.”
Hartley doubles as a producer on the project, so he has an incentive to shoulder the load. Whether that’s enough to earn “Tracker” an extended run remains to be seen, but by letting the show piggyback on the year’s biggest televised event, CBS is gassing up that RV with a full tank of premium coming off the starting line.
“Tracker” premieres February 11 after the Super Bowl and will regularly air Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on CBS.
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