In a television season chock-full of new shows featuring squabbling odd couples who like each other deep down (Palace Guard, P.S.I. Luv U, Pacific Station, Good & Evil), Reasonable Doubts seemed the most interesting. Marlee Matlin (Children of a Lesser God) plays Tess Kaufman, a hearing-impaired assistant district attorney; Mark Harmon (St. Elsewhere, Long Road Home) is Dicky Cobb, a tough-talking police detective. Their mutual boss (William Converse-Roberts of The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd) thinks they’d make a great team because Dicky knows sign language — his father was deaf, it’s explained.
The idea is that Dicky will help Tess gather evidence to put away bad guys and the public good will be served. But they hate each other: He’s a macho jerk, and she’s a — well, she’s a macha jerk. Reasonable Doubts‘ premiere is full of yelling arguments, as our heroes establish their turf and prove that they’re both stubborn and won’t be pushed around. Sometimes the arguing gets pretty childish — ”You’re just like my father!” yelps Dicky at one point.
The most delicate aspect of Reasonable Doubts is Dicky’s translation of Tess’ signing — the obvious danger is that we’ll have to listen to Mark Harmon speaking both sides of their conversations each week. But in the pilot, this procedure doesn’t call attention to itself — perhaps because the script by the show’s creator, Robert Singer (Midnight Caller), is so obvious that we can predict what Tess is going to sign before she does it.
By the end of the show, Tess and Dicky have formed an uneasy alliance, one that leaves open the possibility that they might be attracted to each other romantically — gee, whatta surprise. Both actors make an effort to seem loose and spontaneous — Matlin succeeds, while the strain shows in the usually intense Harmon. But for all its novelty as a show with a hearing-impaired protagonist, Reasonable Doubts strands its stars in a very ordinary cops ‘n’ lawyers series. C