Molly Parker as Abby McDeere, showing off her sole character trait: She’s a teacher. Photograph by Steve Wilkie/NBC.
Oy, NBC. We wanted to stick by you with this one, because even though last week’s two-hour pilot had some worrying signs of a show with multiple personality disorder, it also had John Grisham (on the writing team), Josh Lucas (with the bluest eyes ever to grace the small screen), and what appeared to be some cracking moments of courtroom drama.
All we can say now is, the odds of this show lasting 22 episodes are about the same as those of a lawyer watching it and thinking, “Man, that looks just like what happened to me this week, when I jumped off a balcony, exposed a major serial killer, and still came home in time to deal with my daughter’s moral dilemma.” With that, we’re adopting a new format: Welcome to Winners and Losers, everybody!
Winners (on the sparse side this week):
Cigarettes. I don’t think television has had a character who smoked as much as Tammy Hemphill since Carrie Bradshaw put her Choos in storage. In fact, pretty much the only thing Juliette Lewis does in this show is smoke, except for when she’s going off on bizarre tangents about men she slept with or Firebirds she pretended to steal, or enunciating the following nugget of wisdom: “That’s the problem with pretending to be someone you aren’t. You have to be that someone even when you don’t want to anymore.” Look sharp, Confucius. There’s a new girl in town.
Tight dresses. It’s also possible Tammy talks that way because her hooker outfits are so tight they deprive her brain of oxygen. And the smoking probably doesn’t help.
Teachers. Wouldn’t any teacher want to get one up on their snottiest popular kid the way Abby did this week?
Serial killers with morals. Even though they’re very evil, of course they’re all secretly longing to be caught, according to character Calvin Parker, who, despite having found the perfect modus operandi (bury dead girls in abandoned school where mother once taught), felt compelled to turn himself in for a murder he didn’t commit. Is that a conscience we hear clanking its way to the music room? Or just an unbelievably awkward plot structure that makes no sense?
Ethics. Mitch McDeere might just be the world’s most ethical lawyer. But he’s also the most annoying, and he makes terrible, terrible decisions (like not calling the police when someone takes out a hit on a 14-year-old boy, or freeing a serial killer with a fixation on good table manners). He also delivers lines like the following: “That’s the thing about rules, Abby. It’s not what you do—it’s who you are.” Which makes no sense whichever way you shake it.
Justice. As you’d expect in a show only slightly less didactic than Diff’rent Strokes, all was well in the end. Calvin Parker went to jail, the reluctant girlfriend-killing son of Mitch’s lawyer partner turned himself in, and the witchy, cheating 10-year-old was forced to spend evenings hanging out with the soul-suckingly insipid Abby McDeere.
Structure/narrative/style. We’re not trying to be mean here, NBC, but what the hell are you trying to do with this show? Right now, it feels like you tried to shove Law & Order, CSI, The X Files, and Parenthood into a blender and you’re force-feeding us the resulting sloppy mess. First of all, there’s way too much going on, in between the overhanging Six Weeks Later arc, the episodic legal drama, the Firm/Joey Morolto storyline, and the sappy family stuff. That storyline where Claire saw her friend cheating in class but didn’t want to tell her mom because she wanted to be popular (but told her anyway)? Garbage. And a huge distraction, to boot. I know you wanted to have a vehicle to draw all these moral parallels between Claire’s dilemma and Mitch’s, but all the Do The Right Thing stuff just feels tedious.
Washington news sites. Apparently the only news resource we have here is a Web site that look like a less well-funded version of DCist and is called “Washington DC.” Catchy title! But I bet it has a crappy Google presence. Next week, writers, I’d like to introduce you to something called Search Engine Optimization. Just saying.
Snappy dressers. “I don’t take meetings with guys wearing suits that cost more then five grand,” Mitch tells Alex. No wonder his law firm is doing so badly.
Molly Parker. It’s like the character of Tammy Hemphill took up all the quirks the writers think women might have (slutty outfits, sense of humor, inability to focus on work for longer than a minute), making Abby McDeere positively bland by comparison. After three hours, here’s what I know about her: She’s a teacher. That’s it. But hey, at least Molly Parker doesn’t have to play the veritable epitome of a ball-busting bitch like Tricia Helfer does each week, so there’s that.
Justice. “We didn’t interrogate anyone. The guy just walked in, spilling his guts,” said a cop who I thought for a while was the guy who played Jay Landsman in The Wire, but who had much less charm. So naturally the prosecutors arrested Calvin Parker and put him on trial, even though they had no bodies. And no evidence! But he said he killed a bunch of women, so that’s just fine.
Anyone in a uniform. Because you’re all corrupt, all of you. Like the security guard who let Mitch into an abandoned school (all abandoned schools are monitored by security guards, by the way, which is why Calvin hid his bodies there), or the cop Andrew presumably bribed to get Sarah’s laptop back (I find it unbelievably hard to get excited about this Sarah storyline, but presumably this’ll be important in future episodes, so here’s a nod to it for posterity).
What did you think of last night’s episode? Let us know in the comments.