By Deanna Barnert
Special to MSN TV
ABC's "Body of Proof" is back on the case Feb. 14, and the return promises an emotional "China Beach" reunion, rapper Sean Kingston's acting debut, a shake- up at the medical examiner's office and a new romance for Dr. Megan Hunt. Dana Delany is set to throw Jamie Bamber ("Battlestar Galactica") against a wall! Plus, Luke Perry and Dean Norris ("Breaking Bad") are on the docket, and MSN TV spied stunt people staging an all-out battle in Megan's office during our set visit. With an eye on landing a Season 3 pickup, "Body of Proof" is clearly upping its game, and it all starts with February sweeps.
As noted in our doomsday story in January, "Body of Proof" is facing an uncertain future, in spite of its committed fan base. "Our show is an anomaly, in that it has so many viewers, as big as a 'Grey's Anatomy,' yet our numbers in the last few [episodes] have been south of a 2, which is always precarious," executive producer Matthew Gross explained to MSN TV.
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The series needs to lure that coveted 18-49-year-old demographic to raise its number, but faithful fans shouldn't be worried. Gross was quick to add that "Body of Proof" is already a quality show and that won't change. They're just spiking what already works with buzz-worthy guest stars and stories. Having the paranormal thriller "The River" as a lead-in may also help.
The action picks back up Feb. 14, but the episode featuring Robert Picardo ("China Beach," "Star Trek: Voyager") is no Valentine's Day tale. In "Cold Blooded," a dead body in a freezer leads Megan to a family torn apart by Alzheimer's and a son caught between maintaining the family business and setting out on his own. As always with "Body of Proof," there's more to the story, but the subject matter allows the show to delve into emotional ground.
"My grandmother had early Alzheimer's, so I'm aware of the toll it takes," Delany shared. "As I read the script, I had to stop myself from crying."
Then, the Feb. 21 episode "Occupational Hazards" will shake up Megan's world, personally and professionally. Rapper Sean Kingston guests as a taxi driver who finds himself in the center of two murders after a dead body is found in his trunk. While the team works the case, Megan finally gets some action and Kate's (Jeri Ryan) job as Chief ME is threatened.
"You're going to see some dynamics in the office changing," teased Gross, and MSN TV wouldn't be surprised if those changes allow Kate to get her hands dirty more often. It seems Ryan gets jealous of Delany's fresh bodies.
"Dana and Jeri have this little rivalry over who's the biggest nerd," Geoffrey Arend (Ethan) revealed. "These two incredibly hot women going, 'No, I'm a nerd! No, I like to touch the testicles on the corpse!'"
While there may be some good-natured tussles over autopsies, however, "Body of Proof" is a strictly no-diva zone. "Jeri's right there, toe to toe," Delany says of her co-star. "She's like me: We've been doing it for a while. She knows what's required, she's fun and she's a dame, so we laugh a lot. There's very little drama on our set."
The drama is saved for the screen, which may be why the energy behind the scenes gets pretty goofy. Most of MSN TV's interviews were interrupted by teasing among the co-stars. "We're all quite irreverent about things," Nicholas Bishop (Peter) said. "We spent [the first season] in Rhode Island together, separated from everything. We bonded, and we have a collectively similar sense of humor. We push each other's buttons."
Of course, they're pros once cameras start rolling. The same can't be said for a recent "corpse" who started snoring. "Then he started talking!" Bishop recounted. "He also woke up at one point, rolled his eyes and went back to sleep. I don't think that will end up on air."
As for the new romance coming to "Body of Proof," Megan has her mother (Joanna Cassidy) and daughter (Mary Mouser) to thank. Now that Judge Joan is off the bench, she and Lacy will have fun meddling in Megan's life. The end result is a hot date with a mysterious man named Aiden (Bamber).
"He's delightful and nice to look at -- and a good actor, too! I can't be too sexist," Delany quipped. "It's always nice to see that side of Megan, because she's so tough and in control in other areas and so bad at her personal life."
Megan has been improving her social skills since joining the ME's office, but this first kiss will get awkward. It was supposed to be one of those typical 'man throws woman against wall' make-out sessions, until Delany stepped in.
"I said, 'Whenever I read a scene like this, I know a man has written it. That's not what women like. That's not sexy, at least to me. We like someone who holds back and makes us come to them,'" recalled Delany. "So the whole thing was switched around. He holds back and I am so uncomfortable that I don't know what do to, so I push him against the wall!"
However that turns out, Bamber is sticking around for a few more episodes, so Megan has a shot at love.
As mentioned, Luke Perry and Dean Norris are also coming to "Body of Proof" later this season. They'll play a CDC doctor and FBI agent in a two-parter involving a disease outbreak. There's also a major fight scene coming to the office, with Megan in the center of the action.
Oh, and for the record, yes, it is spooky inside those autopsy room body drawers.
"Body of Proof" airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.