The case for a national moratorium on the legal drama is here! There have been hints that this well-trod genre needs no further additions: Witness the quick cancellations of pedigreed shows like Dick Wolf’s 2005 Law & Order: Trial by Jury and the 2004 Tom Fontana entry The Jury. Now comes the clincher: NBC’s Conviction, another new legal drama from busy Mr. Wolf. Conviction looks and sounds like every other legal series, yet it also manages to be astoundingly boring and uninspired on its own merit.
Conviction centers on the attorneys of the DA’s office in New York City, where… yaahhhhhh, must stifle yawn already. (At least CBS’ Close to Home plopped its courtroom in the paradoxically exotic suburban Indiana.) Conviction is packed with images you’ve seen countless times before: the temptress in a black dress staring across a New York bar; a nervous lawyer (Ally McBeal‘s Julianne Nicholson, a specialist in high-strung female characters who are supposedly adorable) practicing her closing argument in the morning sun. That the argument is the drippiest piece of oratory ever written makes her dappled speechifying all the more ridiculous. That the judge nods appreciatively at the speech — as if the writers knew they’d need help convincing us that this dreck was admirable — shows just how lazy Conviction is.
Oh, boy, is it lazy. For instance, we learn that our young forgettable hero, Nick Potter (Jordan Bridges), was a corporate lawyer who, searching for meaning in his life, joined the DA’s office to ”prosecute the disenfranchised for $51,000 a year,” as one character puts it. That’s as much of an explanation as we get for this logic-defying career choice (public defender, now that would’ve made sense). The comedy is no better. The jokes have a hackneyed Hee Haw rhythm — none of them feel surprising (one gag I remember from 1985’s gender-bending teen flick Just One of the Guys — not a source of sophisticated humor).
Conviction is so stale that it deploys Ally McBeal-like exchanges in the staff restroom; and the Law & Order vibe is omnipresent, what with SVU‘s Stephanie March reprising her role as attorney Alexandra Cabot. Seeing that cookie-cutter character spun off is like realizing Final Destination 3 is in theaters: There was a demand for something this average?
As if to underline its unoriginality, Conviction also employs serial show-killer Eric Balfour (of 2004’s Hawaii, 2005’s Sex, Love & Secrets, and the never-even-made-it-on-the-air Fearless), playing the same guy he always plays: an unconvincing bad dog of a man. If only that sage judge were in every scene with Balfour’s Brian Peluso to frown disapprovingly and convince us Brian is indeed a scoundrel. His puzzling banter with a love interest is just painful, as Conviction‘s supposedly breezy exchanges sink like a judge’s gavel to the bottom of the cesspool of the justice system. That mangled, overblown sentence is my going-away present to this useless show, and I say that with Conviction (but not for long).