Let me start by saying that, overall, I am not a fan of Fox’s programming. Over the years there have been a few shows that have piqued my interest, but few have held it for any length of time. So when I heard about Justice, I figured I’d give it an episode to plead its case and then come back with a verdict as to whether it would be a Season Pass winner on my TiVo or just another flip through on Wednesday night.
In my book, Justice had only two things going for it: it was being billed as “doing for law what House did for medicine” (hmm, snarky God complex in the courtroom has possibilities) and starred Victor Garber, a man who is as comfortable dispatching Russian spy baddies with an AK-47 as he is tap dancing to the tune of “I Don’t Need Anything But You” with Little Orphan Annie. Then, there is the little end-of-show twist where you get to see what really happened and if the lawyers you spent an hour investing yourself in got played or found actual justice (very reminiscent of Fox’s failed 2004 court drama, The Jury). Altogether, the package had me piqued. Fox just might be able to pull it off if they didn’t mess up the execution.
So what’s the verdict? This jury is still out. Garber does a great job as Ron Trott, the über-confident head of his team of lawyers, much resembling House’s team of fellows, though these guys are given a little more credit for having more than two brain cells. He is the media face for his clients and firm, playing the press as if he were a lifelong spin doctor. But don’t think of getting him in front of a jury, that is, if you want to win. Leave that to Tom Nicholson, “the American face of ‘not guilty,’” played by Kerr Smith. When they need to land a slam dunk, Trott looks to Nicholson, whose pretty boy face and flawless delivery can stroke juries into believing whatever story he chooses to spin. But at the heart of it, he genuinely cares about his clients. Aww.
You don’t see much of the other two leads, Luther Graves (played by Oz’s Eamonn Walker) and Alden Tuller (played by Rebecca Mader), though Mader’s performance just rubbed me the wrong way. I’m sure she’s supposed to be playing a crack legal mind, but she gives off an uncomfortable stiffness in everything she does, like her skin is too tight for her body. I would like to see her loosen up a bit, and like to see more of Walker altogether.
The pilot’s story line definitely left you guessing, but lacked originality. Did the husband kill his wife? Arguments for and against a guilty verdict were plausible and intriguing, though I can’t help but think the writers took the safe route with this premiere. The husband was innocent, acquitted by the jury and vindicated by the recount of what actually happened in the last minute of the show. A story line more shocking or an unexpected ending would have given the pilot more impact. I kind of expected more from a Jerry Bruckheimer show. But maybe Fox focus groups found the happy ending, where everyone for the defense was right and the prosecution is painted as witch hunters, scored better with viewers.
Overall, Justice was an interesting show with potential. I’m withholding my Season Pass for now, but am planning on giving the show a second chance to wow me next week. Maybe by then the writers will have grown a bit of backbone and give us something more to chew on than the usual story line.