Review: The Whole Truth 1×1

An interesting idea, a good cast but a dull script and characters

The Whole Truth

In the US: Wednesdays, 10pm Eastern/9pm Central, ABC
In the UK: Not yet acquired

So with most legal dramas (eg The Defenders, LA Law, Shark, The Deep End et al), you have a very obvious set-up. You have the heroic/anti-heroic lawyers who have to defend/prosecute the obviously guilty/innocent defendant. By the end of the episode, said defendant is proven guilty/innocent thanks to our hero’s/heroes’ resourcefulness. Cue the next episode.

Producer Jerry Bruckheimer likes to mix things up a little bit. For example, with 2006’s Justice, although our heroes were the intrepid defending attorneys, we never knew until the end whether the client was actually guilty or not – all we knew was that our lawyers were going to defend them to the best of their abilities, using whatever tricks they had up their sleeves.

The Whole Truth builds on this and takes it one stage further. Here we have both a heroic defending counsel and a determined prosecutor and we get to see both sides of the case built, with both lawyers using whatever tricks they can come up with to win. And at the end, we find out whether the defendant was actually guilty or innocent.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Certainly, with Rob Morrow (Northern Exposure, Numb3rs) as well as Maura Tierney (ER, Rescue Me) on board, you’d be thinking that we were onto something good. However, while you won’t feel the pain you might get from watching The Defenders, The Whole Truth is still quite an average legal drama that you can quite easily ignore without feeling you’re missing out on the cultural zeitgeist.

Here’s a trailer, followed by another, almost identical trailer – see if you can spot the difference.

The Whole Truth pits Manhattan’s toughest team of District Attorneys against the city’s most up-and-coming defense firm. The Prosecution delivers justice to victims of the city’s most grievous crimes, while the Defense stands to protect the fate of those accused – innocent and guilty alike.

One moment, the Prosecution – lead by Kathryn Peale (Maura Tierney) – will convince you of the defendant’s guilt, but the next the Defense – headed by Jimmy Brogan (Rob Morrow) – will convince you of his innocence. Twists and turns are the heart and soul of high-profile criminal law and even the jury doesn’t get it right all the time. No one ever knows what really happened until the the very last scene, when we learn… The Whole Truth.

Is it any good?
Well, it’s so good that – as you might have noticed from trailer two – Joely Richardson legged it after the pilot for ‘personal reasons’, forcing a reshoot of the entire episode with Maura Tierney. Tierney does actually do a good job as the steely prosecutor who’ll do anything to win and Morrow shows that he’s actually pretty versatile as an actor, evoking neither his Northern Exposure nor his Numb3rs roles.

But it’s pretty much by the numbers – ho, ho – after that. While it’s interesting to see some relatively evenly matched lawyers going at it like it’s a chess match, the plot to this episode at least wasn’t exactly innovative (professor is accused of killing the student he was allegedly having an affair with) and the obvious need to keep the viewer in the dark until the end of the story means that most of the episode is nothing but red herrings designed to mislead or cloud the issue, rather than anything that might genuinely happen in a trial. The supporting characters are pretty much empty suits fulfilling plot functions, while the ending, where all is revealed, is straight out of Justice and walks that heady tightrope between tastelessness and ridiculousness.

It’s fun to play spot the Brit among the supporting cast (Eamonn Walker, who was in Justice, and Christine Adams, who was in Doctor Who, NY:LON et al) but there’s nothing really much else to keep you watching. Given the bad ratings this first episode got, you can assume that there won’t be much more for you to watch either.

Skip it.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.