Raising The Bar
Type of Pilot: Courtroom Drama
Similar Shows: Conviction (it's about lawyers and J. August Richards is in it), Equal Justice (it's about lawyers and Jane Kaczmarek is in it), The Paper Chase (it's about idealistic lawyers and Jane Kaczmarek is in it), The Guardian (it's about how the legal system can fail people), The Round Table (it's about young professionals gathering in a bar to talk shop),
The Inner Light: One man can make a difference. Maybe...
Strengths: Great performances from Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Jane Kaczmarek. No surprise there. When has either one been less than great in a role? Gosselaar is the idealistic lawyer surrounded not by evil people but by lots of apathy. Everyone says 'yeah the system sucks, but what can we do' and Gosselaar is willing to try and change it. Even if he has to disrespect a few people to do it. Kaczmarek is the judge who is determined to put an end to his lack of respect.
Weaknesses: It's basically the same as every legal drama you've ever seen.
Impressive Characters: Jerry Kellerman (the lawyer) and Judge Kessler. The pilot is their story, so everyone else takes a back seat.
Impressive Actors: Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Jane Kaczmarek.
Less-Than-Impressive Characters: The pilot barely scratches the surface of most of the characters.
Less-Than-Impressive Actors: The pilot is dominated by Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Jane Kaczmarek. I know that Melissa Sagemiller and J. August Richards will be great in the series because I've seen what they can do elsewhere. Everyone else is a wildcard. I liked Jonathan Scarfe a lot though. He makes his presence felt in a few scenes by saying nothing and he gets the best storyline at the very end. Currie Graham provides some sleaze, but nothing else. As for Teddy Sears he was rather bland and forgettable in this. And Gloria Reuben, while looking more utterly beautiful than ever, brought nothing else to the role that was unique or interesting. Early days, I suppose.
Continuity: It'll probably have self-contained case-of-the-week stories with lots of soap opera in the character's personal lives.
Other Info: It's a Steven Bochco show.
Three Things I Really Like About This Pilot:
Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Jane Kaczmarek
The final minutes are used to give the other characters a turn in the spotlight. In rapid succession we learn who is sleeping with who, who is sleeping with nobody, who is in love with who, who has a secret, etc. etc. And it's very good. But also very worrying. If I was to watch this series, it would be to see Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Jane Kaczmarek do their thing again. But, I suppose, that would become tiresome. So it makes sense to open the show up to the other characters. However, that makes it all the more ordinary, since we have seen lots of ensemble shows about law professionals and their love lives.
I honestly don't know if I will make time to watch this. It was - in almost all respects - an average legal drama. The pilot, however, was above average because of some great perfomances and a very good story. Who knows if the series will be able to maintain the standard?