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'The Finder' finds funny bone in drama

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Cast members Michael Clarke Duncan, left, and Geoff Stults participate in the panel discussion for the Fox television show "The Finder."

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Fans of lighthearted action-dramas -- think: Bones, NCIS -- could do worse than Fox's The Finder (9 p.m. EST Thursday, Jan. 12), a jokey new series filled with characters designed to appeal to every niche of a young viewing demographic.

A Bones spinoff based on The Locator book series by author Richard Greener, several of the Finder characters first appeared on an episode of Bones last season, although since that episode one supporting character has been replaced. But the premise and setting remain the same.

Geoff Stults (7th Heaven) stars as Walter Sherman, an Iraq-war veteran with brain damage that manifests itself in his uncanny ability to find missing people and objects. He's also a bit tactless.

Walter buddies up with legal/business adviser Leo (Michael Clarke Duncan), a loyal sidekick, but the bartender character from the pilot (Saffron Burrows) has disappeared.

Instead, Walter often works with Deputy U.S. Marshal Isabel Zambada (Mercedes Masohn) while keeping a close eye on teenager Willa Monday (Maddie Hasson), a juvenile delinquent who works in Walter's Ends of the Earth bar in the Florida Keys.

"His compulsion to find, it's not natural," Isabel worries.

"It's supernatural, it's a gift," Leo replies.

Thursday's premiere begins with Walter and company tracking down John Fogerty's guitar using a clever robot invention. Then a polite military-school student (Brett Davern, MTV's Awkward) shows up wanting to hire Walter to find his father, whose body was never recovered after a plane crash.

The episode wraps up its solution in a too-fast, 30-second montage but that's probably because The Finder seems more interested in Walter's process, eccentricities and mild character development than in criminal procedure.

Walter has a vault buried under his bar; hulking Leo rides in a motorcycle sidecar and Walter occasionally wears goofy-looking flip-up glasses. These are all efforts to lighten the tone of the show to set it apart from darker crime procedurals. And it generally works.

The Finder is not sophisticated TV, but it does have its charms, mostly stemming from star Geoff Stults. He makes scruffy straight-arrow Walter slightly off -- a good guy with quirks.

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