Monday, September 01, 2008

Sepinwall on TV: 'Raising the Bar' review

First of two columns today: I review TNT's "Raising the Bar," in which Mark-Paul Gosselaar has to sport an unfortunate hairstyle while Steven Bochco repeats every move you've ever seen him make before.

19 comments:

Linda said...

You know, I'm glad to see this review. This show certainly LOOKED like a total retread of all shows of its kind, and I'm happy to know that it actually is, so that I don't have to pay any attention to it. I just discovered that there's a good collection of early (and therefore good) episodes of The Practice on Hulu, and I think watching some of those is going to be more satisfying than this would be.

Nicole said...

I've seen the first episode and while it may be derivative, it is still better than the circus that is Boston Legal.

Anonymous said...

I've also seen the first episode and it's BAD. Mind numbingly bad. Jerry is annoying, the Judge is completely unrealistic and inhuman (and Kaczmarek totally chews the scenery), the twists make no sense (particularly the one with the character who isn't what he/she seems), and the blatant sexual harrasment is so over the top that it's hard to believe it would ever happen in real life--particularly in a law office. My one other gripe is that Gloria Reuben is totally underused. If the show miraculously manages to get renewed, what are the chances she won't bail before season 2 (see ER, The Agency, & Missing).

pgillan said...

Jane Kaczmarek has a recurring role as a judge on the Simpsons, as well. Is this just coincidence, or is there some sort of judiciary-related in-joke I'm not aware of?

In an unrelated note, her biography on IMDb revealed that she's married to Bradley Whitford, and now I can't shake the mental image of Josh Lyman and Malcom's mom in screaming match.

hask said...

Well, she was a student of Professor Kingsfield 25 years ago, so why not?

Teev said...

Those promos where Gosselar's all "sometimes clients are guilty and I still defend them" are driving me mental. That's the legal system, that's how it's supposed to be; it's not some act of rebellion or whatever OMG guilty people get representation deal he thinks it is.

Also, if Alec Baldwin's hair is a head-suit then is Gosselar's a head-sweatsuit? That bit about how his hair is a side effect of caring. too. much. was way. too. funny.

Matt said...

I hadn't realized the show was co-created by David Feige, who wrote a very good memoir about his years of working as a public defender. That gives me a little hope. However, it sounds much more like "Heartland," which had a solid cast (Treat Williams, Kari Matchett, and Morena Baccarin) and just went nowhere, than the "generic show with single great performance" that's driven TNT in recent years ("Closer," particularly, "Saving Grace," which is mediocre and generic but for Hunter's performance).

Alan Sepinwall said...

I hadn't realized the show was co-created by David Feige, who wrote a very good memoir about his years of working as a public defender. That gives me a little hope.

Matt, I wouldn't get my hopes up too much. The book sounds great, but Bochco made it clear he didn't want to do a series version of the book. Quote:

I happily read it, and I thought it was wonderful, and the book really chronicles his 12 to 15 years as a public defender in the Bronx. And I said I didn't want to do a series about a public defender. We had done "Philly," you know, with Kim Delaney, which I thought was a terrific show, but I didn't feel that audiences really identify particularly with attorneys who represent scumbags by
and large. So I said, "Great book. Thank you very much and goodbye."


He then went on to explain that he eventually agreed to work with Feige if they could expand the world, blah blah blah, and what we wind up with is the generic Bochco version of it.

As Rick Porter says, the parts of "Raising the Bar" that work are the small details in the margins about the day-to-day details of the public defenders' jobs, and I'm sure that stuff came straight from Feige. But the vast majority of the series is the other stuff.

Nicole said...

I think it would be interesting to have a lawyer show where the lead is the lawyer version of Vic on the Shield... unethical and not ashamed to be so. Maybe a dark comedy. Perhaps the bad haircut is a sign that Zack will soon turn to the dark side. One can only hope.

Eugene Freedman said...

I thought the fact that they left the trial out of the episode was absurd. Where was the cross examination of the detective and victim with regard to their original statements. That was what the entire case was about and it got boiled down to a jury instruction without any of the foundation laid.

I was happy to see Michael Harney as the detective, however. I always liked him as Mike Roberts on NYPD Blue. I thought Currie Graham being cast in a similar role was annoying, though.

Matt said...

The "anything to win" lawyer was done (and quite well) in the last season of "The Practice" and about the first season of "Boston Legal" in Alan Shore (though even there, it started to cross over into exaggeration). Unfortunately, it then became "David E. Kelley's political soapbox of the week."

Alan Sepinwall said...

7.7 million viewers. Biggest ad-supported cable series launch of all time.

How many of those people come back next week is still in question, but that dwarfs the audiences for both Prison Break and Gossip Girl.

Joolie said...

I didn't hate this show, but what burns me is how much better it could have been, given the cast and the budget. Incredibly predictable, sometimes self-righteous, I kept thinking, no way would a professional act like that.

lizriz said...

I've seen three episodes, and I really like the show. The pilot had a couple of hammy spots, but I'm really interested in the characters, particularly the judge's assistant. And I like that they are all friends, and that dynamic.

I will say that I work in the entertainment industry, so blatant sexual harassment isn't anything I bat an eye at.

Anonymous said...

Whew, that was painful to watch, man I was so disappointed, will never watch it again.

Maura said...

Incredibly predictable, sometimes self-righteous, I kept thinking, no way would a professional act like that.

If I didn't know better, I would have thought it was a David Kelley show.

I expect more from Bochco, which makes it even more disappointing. Not that I actually need to watch another crime/court room drama.

I seldom blow off a show after one episode, so I might give it another chance, if only to see J. August Richards. I'm always glad to see him working.

dez said...

How many of those people come back next week is still in question, but that dwarfs the audiences for both Prison Break and Gossip Girl.


Considering how bad the first half of the Prison Break premiere was, I'm not surprised. Luckily, the show got fun again in the second half. Damn truncated season because of the damn writer's strike!

Geezer Dude said...

I would have fallen asleep, but I was afraid I'd have a nightmare.

The acting was hokey, the plot was reminiscent of Swiss cheese, the production was overly bright and cluttered: In short, a total waste of time and an insult to viewers. I finally gave up on it, it was just to pitiful to watch.

Annabeth said...

I don't know what show these other people were watching but I thought Raising The Bar was great. The fact that they are all friends and reprsenting opposing sides of the law is very interesting.

After spending many years in court, I felt the Judge was very believable. I used to say our Judge was playng video games or something while the attorney talked.

I loved the attitude of the public defender even though he is out-spoken. He gives me a ray of hope that there might be justice in the system. The romantic twists and turns were delightful. Though there was definite sexual harassment, I believe Michelle's boss will get what s coming to him. It still exists though not unnoticed these days.

I can hardly wait for Monday night and I hope it is on for years!