Review: Burden of Truth 1×1 (Canada: CBC)

Lawyers as epidemiologists

Burden of Truth
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In Canada: Wednesdays, 8pm, CBC

TV seems to think that any professional is a master of all trades. See those Crime Scene Investigators? They’re not just scientists, they’re great at doing police investigations, interrogations, you name it, according to CSI. Paramedics? Who needs them when the fire brigade can do it all for them in 9-1-1?

Lawyers, of course, are well known for investigating and solving crimes themselves on TV. But until now, we’ve not really had “lawyer as epidemiologist”.

Burden of Truth sees Smallville‘s Kristin Kreuk playing a high-flying lawyer at a firm run by her dad. A golden opportunity to win the custom of a big pharmaceutical company comes along, when a group of girls in a small town start suing the firm, claiming that its HPV vaccine is making them ill. All Kreuk has to do is get them to stop their claim and she wins the business. Trouble is, it’s the same small town she grew up in and which she and her dad were hounded out of 17 years earlier for reasons not as yet revealed.

Reprehensible?

For a while, Burden of Truth looks to be a pretty reprehensible piece of work. Despite Kreuk’s vehemency against ‘anti-vaxxers’, all signs point to the show becoming Big Pharma Is Bad and Kreuk switching sides when she finds out the truth. Numerous scenes have Kreuk trying to pay off the locals, all while she dishes out mealy mouthed “temporal proximity does not indicate causality” responses to the touchy feely “your vaccine made me sick” girls and their families.

Fortunately, about halfway through, it becomes clear that actually, the vaccine’s fine and CBC isn’t about to cause a Canada-wide public health crisis. Hopefully, viewers will indeed learn that simply because you did something and you got sick afterwards, it doesn’t mean what you did made you sick.

What the show then becomes is Kreuk deciding to go Erin Brockovich, and stay in town to work out what really caused the illnesses and to somehow make amends for whatever it is her dad did that still has people punching her and spitting at her 20 years later. Whether she’ll be fingering Big Mining, Big Chemical, Big Agro or Little Chinese Herbal Medicine (warning: may contain traces of anthrax) as the true cause is the mystery that will drive the rest of the season.

Burden

That still leaves a show that’s makes you feel like it’s sent you an envelope of incriminating photographs, such is the emotional blackmail going on. The lawyering is all slightly perfunctory and the show’s heart is really in having Kreuk feel bad.

Numerous are the scenes in which children curse Kreuk for offering them $50,000 and opine things like “I always wanted to be a lawyer but now I’ve met you I don’t” or “You may have worked for a big company but I thought you were a human being. But you’re not.” Kids, hey? Thick as mince, the lot of them.

Meanwhile, police officers unexpectedly pull up and say things like “I never thought I’d see a Hanley in this town, not after what your dad did.”

The show has all the subtlety of a Hallmark movie about single mothers.

Amiable

Manipulative it may be, but it’s reasonably amiable manipulation. Kreuk is more plausible here as a big city lawyer than she was as a big city police detective in Beauty and the Beast. She also has decent chemistry with Peter Mooney (Rookie Blue), who plays the town’s hero lawyer and her former High School sparring partner. And despite all the emotional blackmail, it’s always nice to see a show about people being nice, even lawyers.

So I might keep on watching this. To be honest, I really just want to find out what caused the sickness. Even thought the trailer below suggests it’s something else, I do hope it’s the Chinese Medicine store. That would really dick up the anti-vaxxers (“They’re natural remedies, you know?”).