The premiere of Shark, which aired last night on CBS as part of the new fall lineup, is full of in-your-face attitude owing to the presence of James Woods. Though I’ve not been a huge fan of the man, I do think he provides a welcome departure from the rather familiar trappings of the courtroom drama genre. Then again, the part is rather easy to play.
Woods plays Sebastian Stark, a divorced Los Angeles defense attorney who, in the pilot, decides to work with the city’s high-profile crime unit. Stark is a smart-ass type who is more in love with the mirror than he is with the people around him. He apparently has something of a love-hate relationship with D.A. Jessica Delvin (Jeri Ryan) who acts as his boss, while his co-workers in the High Crimes unit send him over the edge constantly with their inability to throw caution to the wind. The only light in his life comes from the fractured but close relationship he has with his daughter Julie (Danielle Panabaker).
Allegedly this show didn't have any legs until Woods signed up. That is a saving grace for most of the supporting cast, who couldn't act their way out of a paper bag. The presence of James Woods makes them step up their performances, if only marginally. Jeri Ryan truly shows that she is merely eye-candy in the more conservative role of Jessica Delvin — her monotonous voice, while it fits her character, makes her extremely dull.
I like the father/daughter element, although I think that may wear down the show into constant "family hour" moments such as those that plague 24 sometimes. I prefer Woods as an asshole, not as a family man. Alright, you could make him soft — but just a little.
Spike Lee gets a nice credit to his resume, directing the first episode. This is probably one of the many moves he's making in order to seal himself a spot for the Katrina series he's supposedly working on. All I can say in either case is "You go, Spike!"
Imagine what Conviction would have become if James Woods led the cast. I’m sure it would have been a lot better than what we were left with. Shark’s biggest problem will be based on how far the character of Stark can be taken. Eventually he will have to get a heart of some sort in the name of character development. But it is far more interesting to see an asshole on television than a normal guy.
If and when the main character gets to be tiresome, it will be up to the supporting cast that makes up his unit to make more out of his personality through some stories of their own. From the premiere, I couldn’t feel the need for anyone to be on the show — probably because they are intimidated by the star power of James Woods.
Hey, Woody Allen could use a hit. Why not give him a detective series? Yes, I know he hates television, but what other hits has he had lately?