I want to see the words “Jimmy Smits” and “successful show” in the same sentence, and not have it be historical flashback. I really do. I like him. I would love for him to find a show where he is actually fighting for something without seeming like a patronizing, sanctimonious do-gooder. I want to see some edge and maybe a little bit of hunger in his character. And when I saw that he was going to be in a law show, I had hopes, but no, he’s the successful boss and it is about him convincing his daughter to come back to the firm and work with him again, three years after she left. My reaction was the same one I’ve had to most of his outings — I predicted cancellation.
Then the hype machine broke in. NBC has been hyping this show out the wazoo. Bluff City Law. Jimmy’s a lawyer! Wow! And he has a lawyer daughter! Wow! And they’re going to fight for their clients against big companies! Wow! Umm, no. In fact, I have often somewhat cynically predicted and been proven right that the more the show is hyped, the worse it is. Bluff City Law doesn’t break that trend.
Seven minutes. Seven whole minutes, with credits, for the show to start, introduce the daughter as a successful defender of corporate America, show she’s ruthless, show she doesn’t get along with her father, kill off the mother to a stroke, reunite the family for a house wake/eulogy, and convince the daughter to rejoin the firm. SEVEN MINUTES. And it wasn’t even a GOOD seven minutes. It pretty much sucked eggs. Every cliché in the book. I swear someone said “make sure the cast is diverse” and they went to town on it like there’s no tomorrow. Somewhere in minute 9 they introduced a woman who works at the law firm and then subtly (i.e., like a sledgehammer) asked her a bad segue question about her AND HER WIFE. Yep, we GET IT. You have a diverse cast to make up for a lead actress who looks like a pale daughter of Casper the Friendly Ghost, not a former Latino hunk du jour. And let’s just skip over the HUGE RIFT between daughter and father that has kept them separated for a whopping THREE YEARS. That’s not a rift, it’s like they’re on a break.
So let’s break it down. The three options to make this show work are:
A. Interesting cases — the first case is about a chemical company selling a product that causes cancer. Wow, that’s literally the case of the week on 100s of shows. And they LEAD with that? Okaaaay. Let’s see, where’s the “hidden scientist”? Oh, there they are. Right on cue. The only thing that was interesting was the question in the court room when the hidden scientist testified. It was pretty good. One line in 42 minutes.
B. Tension — Dad and Daughter? Can barely see it. It certainly isn’t believable, mostly because the daughter isn’t believable. Add in tension with coworkers that GOES nowhere, including other lawyers who are displaced by the daughter’s arrival, and you still have nothing. Ex-husband is around too. Yawn. The ONLY thing that works is a sub-plot where another lawyer is delving into a criminal case that seems to have some interesting bits to it. But there’s no tension with it.
C. Acting — Jimmy’s good, but he’s playing the same character he’s tried repeatedly before with little success. There’s no hunger in his character. The last time he delivered a punchy performance was in the last season of West Wing where he was broke, the campaign was faltering, and he went to a TV station to record an advertising spot, which he did off the cuff, and it was raw, and intense, and powerful. I didn’t think Jimmy had it in him, but he did. Nothing even close to that here.
Caitlin McGee plays the daughter, and while I’ve seen her in some small roles, I mostly have seen her in ADs this summer for the show. And there is no fire within. I was bored the whole time.
Hard to know which of the other characters are going to be worth knowing, except the one lawyer, played by Barry Sloane. I kept wondering where I had seen him before, and I *never* would have come up with Revenge. I don’t know if his character will go anywhere.
But it all doesn’t matter because I won’t be watching. And I’m betting nobody else will be either. CANCELLATION, joining all the other shows about lawyers coming back to their hometown to fight for the little guy.