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With the official start of the 2005-06 season less than two months away, the drumbeats have begun by the networks to tout their new comedies and dramas. What should you keep your eye out for? What should you avoid at all costs? While it's still a little early for full reviews (some recasting and reshooting will be done on a good chunk of them), we thought we'd spend the next month previewing what's in store for the upcoming season. Each day we'll look at two of the 47 new series set to premiere this season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot.
There's no particular order here, just whatever's next on the stack of tapes. So without further ado, here's today's entries:
IN JUSTICE (ABC)
(TBA at midseason)
The network's description: "There are a lot of procedurals on the air that focus on putting people in jail. This is a show about getting them out. Every year, hundreds of innocent men and women get convicted of crimes they didn't commit. Sloppy police work. False testimony. Biased juries. In the blink of an eye an innocent man can lose his life to the mistakes of an imperfect system. And every year the number of innocents who live without hope behind bars multiplies, while the real criminals walk free. The innocent have finally found a champion in a blustery but charismatic attorney named David Swayne. A legendary litigator, Swayne is the head of the Justice Project, a high-profile, non-profit organization made up of hungry young associates who fight to overturn wrongful convictions, liberate the falsely accused and discover the identity of those really to blame. Whether the ego-driven Swayne is doing this in the pursuit of justice or publicity remains to be seen. Thank goodness he has his partner, crackerjack investigator and ex-cop Charles Conti, to keep him honest. He's the serious to Swayne's swagger, and together they work to rectify the mistakes of the justice system one case at a time. Using real life stories as inspiration, the producers of �life as we know it� have created a legal drama reminiscent of �Reversal of Fortune,� in which clients who are presumed guilty must ultimately be proven innocent."
What did they leave out: That pretty much covers it.
The plot in a nutshell: Brash lawyer David Swayne (Kyle MacLachlan) and gruff investigator Charles Conti (Jason O'Mara) are mismatched partners in the Justice Project, a non-profit organization that prides itself on trying to help set wrongfully imprisoned convicts free. The pilot's case involves an African-American man who was fingered as the shooter during the robbery of a jewelry store over a decade ago. His wife ("The Shield's" Nicki Micheaux) nevertheless has never lost hope her husband is innocent and has been campaigning for his release ever since. After some reluctance, Conti, Swayne and his team (Larissa Gomes, Daniel Cosgrove and the sadly underutilized Constance Zimmer) agree to take the case. As you'd expect, it all plays out in its clich�d glory as they disprove witness after witness using such TV/movie drama staples "you chose him because he's black" and "there's no way you could have seen 100 plus feet from your position." Intermixed in the action we get a few glimpses into the characters' personal lives (Conti for instance is in the middle of an amicable divorce) as well as some friction between Swayne and Conti (Swayne it seems is only working with the Justice Project for PR reasons). In the end, well, you can probably take it from here.
What works: I can't help but shrug when I think about this.
What doesn't: It's just a dull show. Not necessarily bad or unwatchable, just dull. This is all material you've seen before (not to mention done much better) elsewhere and there's little effort put into rebottling it into something new and interesting. Making matters worse is that for a procedural show, the personal elements feel surprisingly out of place and grind any momentum built in the process to a halt. MacLachlan and O'Mara are capable enough leads but their characters lack much chemistry and operate better on their own. Like I said, the show just feels very "blah."
The challenges ahead: Is there a way to shoot some life into this show? And will audiences even bother to rush to it? We'll know for sure sometime next year on ABC.