Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Bruckheimer Procedural Type 157: Justice

(This post was supposed to go up this morning, but I overslept and didn't get a chance to post it until now. Now that the show has aired, I hope some of you will share your impressions in the comments section.)

It's hard to say much about Justice. Like all other shows produced by one-man crime show machine Jerry Bruckheimer, it's essentially a "This is how we catch the perps!" procedural, except this one is, "This is how we help the perps avoid jail!" It's handsomely produced (what isn't nowadays?) and well-acted, but the show isn't remarkable enough to avoid fading in to the woodwork.

The legal drama, of course, has long been one of TV's three basic drama types (the other two being the cop show and the medical drama). But, as of late, only Boston Legal has caught on with viewers, and that was a spinoff of an even more successful legal show, The Practice. But just as cop shows saw a resurgence with CSI in 2000 and medical shows saw a resurgence with Grey's Anatomy and House, it seems as though it's time for legal dramas to come back swinging. CBS' (frankly, better) bid Shark comes later, but Justice is Fox's latest attempt to make a show that they can port around anywhere on their schedule to see it repeat well.

Unfortunately, just as Vanished feels like a watered-down version of Prison Break, which was a watered-down version of 24, Justice feels like a watered-down version of Bones, which was a watered-down version of House. This isn't as outright bad as Vanished, but that's because it's very hard to make a truly bad procedural if you know how to write the structure. Unfortunately, the viewers of procedurals know the structure too, and huge twists and turns are hard to come up with when the populace is so educated.

Justice really does try, though. It's aiming to give us a new view into the life of defense attorneys, especially in the age of celebrity trials. A lot of this was done better on ABC's late, lamented Murder One, but Justice wraps a whole six-month trial in to a neat little time span (no word on whether or not the show will progress in real time with every two episodes roughly comprising a year). Victor Garber is a bit over-the-top, but his hammy attempt at the stereotypical, only-wants-to-win attorney is winning enough to make you buy it. His underlings aren't as well defined, but that's not what underlings are for on shows like this.

Two things make the show stand out from the procedural glut. There are repeated cuts to a Nancy-Grace-style show within the show called American Crime where the host castigates our heroes for defending those she has already tried and found guilty on her show, and the last scene of the show flashes back to show us if the crime really went down as our heroes decided it did. Presumably, this will leave us with some room for doubt in the future, as we see innocent people convicted and guilty people freed, but it will take a delicate writing process to make these twists truly surprising, and I'm not sure the Justice team is up to it.

All in all, Justice is pretty bland. If you like procedurals, you'll probably like this. It's not dreadfully pretentious (like Criminal Minds) or horribly bleak (like the quickly canceled Killer Instinct from last year). It's a well-crafted meat-and-potatoes show, and you'll probably like playing "who did it" along with the lawyers.

If you are a serious TV fan, though, there's not going to be enough here to sustain you. Like most of Bruckheimer's output, it's just empty calories.

1 comment:

Matt said...

I really liked the pilot. I definately want to see another episode.

I have a review on my blog. Just click on my profile.