Proof is an American medical drama series that aired on TNT in 2015, but was not renewed for a second season. It stars Jennifer Beals, David Sutcliffe, Edi Gathegi, Joe Morton, and Matthew Modine. Among the producers of the show is Kyra Sedgwick.
Dr. Carolyn "Cat" Tyler (Beals) is a brilliant cardiothoracic surgeon who's also dealing with being separated from her husband Leonard Barliss (Sutcliffe), who's also her co-worker, and with the loss of their teenage son Will, who died in a car accident while she was driving. She's approached by billionaire inventor Ivan Turing (Modine), who tells her he's dying of cancer, and wants her help investigating whether the afterlife is real or not, in exchange for donating all his assets, all $10 billion of them, to the hospital she works in and the charity she supports. She initially refuses, but after Turing reveals that he knows that she once had a near-death experience herself, she reluctantly agrees and in turn recruits one of her interns, Zed (Gathegi), to be a second opinion in the course of her investigations.
Proof provides examples of the following tropes:
- Agent Scully/Mulder: Peter van Owen and Cat respectively. As the series progresses, however, Peter admits to not being completely certain of his psychic abilities, and Cat slowly starts opening her mind to the inexplicable phenomena she's exposed to due to her investigations.
- Brain Uploading: The device in "Private Matters" allows Turing's scientists to translate a person's thoughts into recognizable images, which become clearer the more images it's fed. One of the scientists dies while wearing the device, and inexplicably, a flood of images are captured as he dies, some of which include various memories throughout his life, but may also include other things that Cat herself saw during her own NDE (near-death experience).
- Broken Bird: Nobody questions Cat's talents as a surgeon, but only the people closest to her know that she's still very much emotionally wounded from her son's tragic death and the blow it struck to her relationship with her family.
- Facial Dialogue: Jennifer Beals's face is so incredibly expressive that it's probably safe to assume it saves the show's writers some time writing lines she can just as easily convey emotionally without even saying a word. It's most evident in her private moments, whenever a case challenges her skepticism, or whenever the topic of her son comes up. The best example of this is in a flashback in "St. Luke's," which has Cat conveying to her husband that she can't get herself to go to her son's funeral. No words are exchanged during the entire scene, but the anguish is just written all over Cat's face, and Len understands that she's not entering the church and goes in without her.
- Foil: Peter van Owen to Cat. He's a famous psychic who claims to "have a direct line with the afterlife," and appears very much convinced of the existence of the paranormal. Cat, on the other hand, despite having had her own NDE (near-death experience), is quick to dismiss everything that doesn't come with a scientific explanation.
- Ghost Memory:
- In "Memento Vivere," three comatose patients in one hospital ward suddenly flatline all at the same time, just as another patient in the same room regains consciousness. She cannot recall anything about herself, but mysteriously has the memories of the other three patients who died.
- In "Reborn," a woman claims that her son Matthew, who has been dead for 8 years, was somehow reincarnated as Kyle, another woman's child. Both boys were piano prodigies, who exhibited the same tics while playing the piano, had the same favorite piece, and had the same extremely rare heart condition. A recurring dream Kyle had also happened to match an event in Matthew's early childhood.
- Go into the Light: In Cat's case, the "light" is her son Will, whom she sees when she uses the flatline machine on herself. Patricia Alcott invites her to go to him, but she regains consciousness just as Cat is about to take her hand.
- In "Private Matters," Cat investigates the memories of one of Ivan's employees, who died while wearing a device that downloaded his thoughts onto a computer. The dead person's wife believes that his memories are private, and that they have no right to it. Cat initially insists that they are vital to her investigation, but changes her mind when, as she and her family go through Will's things, she realizes that even Will had secrets that should remain so even if he's already dead.
- In "Reborn," she lies to a mother claiming that her son has been reincarnated as another woman's child, saying that she "should focus on the life she still has" (in this case the woman's husband). Given Cat's somewhat strained relationship with her daughter and her inability to trust her husband again, it's unlikely that she even heard herself say that.
- In Medias Res: "Tsunami Part 2", the season one finale, begins with Cat hallucinating, which is later revealed to be her second NDE while on Turing's flatline machine.
- Lens Flare: Occasionally used for dramatic effect, usually whenever things are tending toward the supernatural.
- Maligned Mixed Marriage: Cat was told that her (black) father's parents were dead, but the truth is that after he married a white woman they wanted nothing to do with him or their grandchild.
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The show runs on this trope. Cat leans heavily toward the mundane, but as she digs deeper into her investigations into NDEs, reincarnation and other afterlife phenomena, the lines start to blur, usually with the implication that it's real. Both times that she investigates a ghost, however, it turns out not to be real, so the series appears not to believe in them.
- Mysterious Stranger: The woman with the green scarf, whom Cat saw with her son during her NDE. It's unclear whether she's a living person or exists only as a messenger of the afterlife. Flashbacks show that she was once a patient of Cat's, and Zed unknowingly stood beside her at an elevator ride once. "Reborn" reveals she is alive and her name is Patricia Alcott, and she finally talks with Cat, warning her to stop her investigations, as she is endangering her family.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Thanks to Cat's use of Turing's flatline machine, all of Turing's and her secrets are revealed. Turing has control of his company taken by his sister as a result, though he assures Cat that he will fight to get it back. Also, Cat ruins her career and reputation at the hospital, and further drives her apart from her husband, who's incredulous at how much she's willing to risk just to see their dead son again. To make matters worse for him, Sophie takes her mother's side. Zed consequently decides to return to Kenya rather than continue on at the hospital without Cat.
- The Not-Love Interest: In an awkward conversation, Len confronts Turing about how closely he's getting along with his wife. Turing simply confesses that he's dying, and that "romantic entanglements aren't something [he has] time for."Turing: If things were different... you'd have a fight on your hands.
- Offscreen Teleportation: The mysterious woman with the green scarf tends to do this a lot, especially just as Cat starts to recognize her.
- Outliving One's Offspring: Will's death significantly fractured the bonds within his surviving family. To make matters worse, Cat was still trying to deal with Len's infidelity when the accident happened.
- Reincarnation: The episode "Reborn" centers around a claim of this, along with Past-Life Memories.
- Someone to Remember Him By: A bizarre and short-lived case in "Memento Vivere." One of Len's patients happened to be the recipient of Will's lungs after the latter died, and Sophie immediately befriends him after finding this out. After Len and Cat find this out, they tell Sophie to stop seeing him. As the patient is about to be discharged, however, Cat strikes up a brief conversation with him and his family, and manages to keep her composure until just after she turns around and leaves.
- Survivor Guilt: Since Cat was driving when Will got killed in an accident, she hasn't stopped blaming herself for his death.
- Thanatos Gambit: In "Tsunami Part 1", Turing shows Cat his latest project: a "flatline machine" that will allow him to be temporarily rendered brain-dead and give him a glimpse of the afterlife. Cat is vehemently against the idea at first, but the next episode has her deciding to use it herself in Ivan's place.
- Title Drop: The closer Cat and Ivan get to proving the existence of the afterlife, the more likely it is that they'll actually call what they're looking for "proof."
- Token Minority: Zed is from Kenya. Also, "St. Luke's" establishes that Cat is half-black half-white (like Jennifer Beals; she asks for this background to all the characters she plays).