Relentlessly dark, "The Inside" (search) depicts a world overpopulated by serial killers, sex fiends and psychos of every stripe.

Just as murky is the show's title. I think it refers to the "inside" of people's minds -- including, probably, the mind of each episode's garden-variety maniac and also the minds of the FBI agents who make up the bureau's Los Angeles Violent Crimes Unit that is the show's focal point.

But who knows? The title is never explained, only left open to interpretation based on observing the VCU's four principal members.

They're younger agents under the supervision of a quirky unit chief, Virgil "Web" Webster (Peter Coyote), whose powers of perception are so canny that he is able to manipulate his charges' behavior based on what he knows about their personalities.

In this way, Webster maneuvers his agents into position to act more or less like bait for killers who are motivated by all kinds of twisted psychoses.

Besides being farfetched, that strategy also seems like a risky method of law enforcement, since it places federal agents in harm's way by exploiting their own psychological defects while also placing them in grave danger.

In fact, one of the agents, Rebecca Locke (Rachel Nichols (search)), is particularly vulnerable because of her own "inside" story -- she was kidnapped as a 10-year-old and held captive by a lunatic for 18 months.

According to the show, her experience made her particularly intuitive about the methods and motivations of serial maniacs -- a skill apparently prized by Web Webster, who uses her sadistically.

Tonight, she gets dolled up in earrings and lipstick to lure a serial killer who stalks his victims on the L.A. subway.

Next week, she accidentally gets handcuffed by an S&M freak. And in the series' third episode, she quits the bureau and becomes a nun (just kidding).

"The Inside" premieres Wednesday at 9 p.m. EDT on FOX.

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