In the US: Wednesdays, Fox, 9/8c. Starts August 30th.
In the UK: Airing on Living TV, starting in 2007.
Remember when CSI first came along? Wasn’t it revolutionary? Didn’t it change cop shows completely? I think Justice is going to do the same for lawyer shows. And surprise, surprise, it’s a Jerry Bruckheimer production.
CSI was a big deal – and still is – because it was smart, glossy, had innovative CGI and a good, ensemble cast. It also exposed areas of the criminal justice system that hadn’t yet been given the full TV treatment.
Justice does pretty much the same thing for lawyers. You might well ask what can possibly be new with lawyers. We’ve had LA Law and a dozen other shows since the 80s alone. Law & Order, in all its various incarnations, shows lawyers at every step of the legal process, and has done for 15-odd years. Shark is jumping out us over on CBS in a month or so.
What Justice does is show us the tricks and science of lawyerdom, both defence and prosecution, in the same way CSI gives us beginners’ guides to bugs and DNA fingerprinting. We get walked through each step of a trial, from appointment by the client and/or arrest, through pre-trial prep, discovery to the trial itself. And it all gets given the glossy Bruckheimer look to speed things up and make it exciting, right down to little captions like “pre-trial” at the bottom of the screen.
One particularly interesting innovation is that the question of guilt or innocence is never resolved by the plot proper. The heroic but occasionally sleezy defence team that are our heroes don’t get to find out whether their client is innocent or guilty: they only get to defend him. It’s not till the end, with another captioned section of the narrative, that we find out whether they’ve been heroically saving an innocent man or getting a killer off the hook. In a genre that’s obsessed with last-minute crises of conscience by heroic lawyers, it’s a refreshing change to have defence attorneys potentially able to defend both the innocent and the guilty without some kind of moral judgement being passed on them.
The cast is smaller than with most Bruckheimer shows. Victor Garber, best known as Sidney’s dad from Alias, does a slightly hammier, slightly sleezier, even more egotistical version of the lawyer he played in Legally Blonde, except here he’s the hero. Brit actor Eamonn Walker has a somewhat clichéd, underwritten part as the strong, dynamic Luther. According to the official blurb, Luther “is famous in the African-American community, always conscious of where he came from and where he’s going. Luther is well-connected, politically motivated and in possession of an uncanny ability to take a step back and assess the merits of a case from both the prosecution’s and the defense’s perspective … anticipating the story each side will tell.” You won’t get any of that from the pilot episode, but it does promise something better for the actual series.
Fellow Brit Rebecca Mader, also faking a US accent, gets more to do as the forensics-savvy Alden Tuller, while Kerr Smith gets much of the focus as the all-American farmboy with a conscience, Tom Nicholson. He has the somewhat thankless task of showing that lawyers really do care about kids and teddies and sugar-plumb fairies, while simultaneously trying to smash the opposition into a thousand greasy pieces.
The show’s a bit more Fox-y than CBS’s CSI, so at times it’s more CSI: Miami than it might be hoped. But unlike many of the other series, I’ve reviewed for this fall’s season, Justice is smart(ish), entertaining, not hopelessly divorced from reality and not utterly predictable. There’s time taken for a few character moments, there are genuinely things you won’t have seen in other shows already, it’s visually innovative and you can see how a series could progress and be entertaining for seasons to come. All in all, a big thumbs up.
Victor Garber (Ron)
Kerr Smith (Tom)
Eamonn Walker (Luther)
Rebecca Mader (Alden)
Warner Bros. Television
Jerry Bruckheimer Television