Ken Tucker
March 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

Equal Justice

TV Show
Current Status
In Season
run date
George DiCenzo, Cotter Smith, Debrah Farentino, James Wilder, Jane Kaczmarek, Kathleen Lloyd, Barry Miller, Joe Morton, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jon Tenney
Thomas Carter
Thomas Carter
Crime, Drama

We gave it a B

Equal Justice wants to be a down and dirty version of L.A. Law, faster and grubbier and more realistic. In this two-hour pilot episode, it succeeds about half the time.

The series is about a bunch of fledgling lawyers working in a district attorney’s office. The pilot was shot in Pittsburgh; director Thomas Carter and the terrific production designer Mel Bourne wanted to avoid the sunny slickness of Law, so they filmed lots of steel-town shabbiness and kept the courtroom scenes lit low. The whole show seems to be taking place at about 5:30 p.m., near sundown — even the courtroom walls look tired.

Carter contrasts the drab scenery with bright young things and appealing middle-agers. Barry Miller (Biloxi Blues) does his patented snotty-kid act decked out in bow ties and sucking on a pipe; Debrah Farentino is permitted to seem smarter than she ever was pining after John Ritter in Hooperman.

For sex appeal, there’s James Wilder as a cool hotshot; if Equal Justice takes off, you can bet that Wilder, with his hooded eyes, his Elvis hair, and his are-they-collagen-or-are-they-real? lips, is going to be the show’s teen idol: James Wild-Thing. Even better is Sarah Jessica Parker and her incredibly thick hair. Frankly, I’d watch a weekly series that was solely about Parker and her hair.

The show has a big cast which also includes Jane Kaczmarek, Cotter Smith, and Joe Morton, who does the evening’s best acting in front of a mirror, rehearsing his summation speech for a tough trial. And the trials? They’re all tough, of course: Murders, rapes, drug-dealing, all the stuff we’ve seen on too many lawyer-cop-crime shows.

But the cliche trial scenes are well written, taking a few twists you might not expect. Equal Justice, the pilot, is pretty good. But if it doesn’t come up with solid scripts and maintain its production values when it becomes a weekly hour next Wednesday, it’ll get pretty bad pretty fast. B

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