Home / DVD Review: Conviction – The Complete Series

DVD Review: Conviction – The Complete Series

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Dick Wolf must have known Law and Order: Trial By Jury was a complete mess — they lost Jerry Orbach midway through the season, the scripts were terrible, and the chemistry didn't exist. "No, that was a fluke. I shouldn't have called it Law and Order: Trial By Jury, I should have called it…" A young exec in his studio raises his hand. Mr. Wolf nods and allows him to interrupt.

"You should have called it Trial By Jury. That way there's no connection to the others."

Dick sits on that critique for a minute as the other execs laugh and giggle at the one who spoke. "You think I can do that with a new series?" he asks the young exec.

"Sure you can, Mr. Wolf. No one will know the difference."

This had to be the mindset he had when he pushed Conviction, which surprisingly was the second spin-off (I don't count Arrest and Trial or Crime and Punishment as canon) of the Law and Order franchise to be cancelled. Two — not one, but two — cancellations should be a sign that this formula needs changing. The WB style should have made it unique from the other Law and Orders, but it didn't.

The premise could be best summed up as a coming-of-age drama with the world of law as a backdrop (I smell the frog all over this). ADA Alexandra Cabot (Stephanie March, who played a character of the same name on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit) leads a bureau of other younger ADAs (Eric Balfour, Jordan Bridges, Milena Govich, Anson Mount, Julianne Nicholson, and J. August Richards) in the city of New York. There's not much more to it than that.

With so many universes created within one city, it's amazing they don't all have lunch at the same places. Could you imagine those conversations?

As far as the episodes go, the separating factor from the other Law and Order spin-offs is that the lawyers get more personal screen time outside the office. But, very much like TBJ, the scripts don't make me care there's that difference at all. Wolf's signature theme of winning at all costs still exists, and seems ancient compared to the 'nobody wins' theme of shows like The Wire.

But hey, Law and Order's original formula is based on Dragnet — back when television made it clear that there were good guys and bad guys.

The Wire forever changed the game in the genre of law enforcement television — now, everyone is, essentially, a bad guy. I prefer it that way, because that seems to be the reality the world is facing, at least in Hollywood. Yes it's depressing, but it's an hour's worth of well-written depression.

Unlike the TBJ box set, they don't bother to include a special about how different their show will be from everything else. All that's included are "character profiles". Not that there was any character who really caught my interest. If I were to base it on performances alone, I'd say Eric Balfour (24) was the most interesting — he was a ladies' man and kind of sleazy looking, which is a better picture of what a lawyer really is.

Dick Wolf can take the Law and Order out of his shows, but the show still carries the taste of the other spin-offs. He should try working a new batch of coffee, rather than simply changing the cup that holds it.

Watch the trailer here (300 kb). 

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About Matthew Milam

  • Scott Butki

    Excellent review. I could never get any of the Law and Order series, though. After growing up on
    Hill Street Blues then Homicide I think my standards are too high.