The handy thing about a series that follows a high-stakes legal team is that said team can be prime-time perfect and still real-world believable. On Justice, the big-money lawyers include an older, cagey veteran (Alias‘ Victor Garber), a younger, cute dude (Dawson’s Creek‘s Kerr Smith), an African-American father of two (Oz‘s Eamonn Walker), and an attractive woman (flinty Nicole Kidman look-alike Rebecca Mader) — hey, it’s a sensible schematic both for a legal team and a TV series! Justice‘s premise also helps in the dialogue category: What would be stilted exposition on another show can be (mostly) disguised as an attorney’s explanation of events to a befuddled client.
Justice is, in fact, as smooth and smartly functioning as one would expect a series from exec producer Jerry Bruckheimer (CSI, Without a Trace) to be. All the bases are covered, and if that doesn’t make for the most inventive show, it makes for a quite watchable one. Justice follows the Los Angeles law firm of TNT&G as they prepare a case and work the trial: In the pilot, they’re defending a man accused of murdering his wife after she’s found floating in the pool with her head bashed in. He says she must have fallen; the cops say he practiced his golf swing on her. A shaky, single camera catches the lawyers as the man’s arrest is imminent; they debate early strategy, most of which involves spinning the salivating media, particularly the sassy Nancy Grace-style host of a show called American Crime. The host herself (Katherine LaNasa) is named Suzanne Fulcrum, as in fulcrum of justice. Smile while you can, as Justice‘s puns are the only playful thing about it: The lawyers dress in neutrals, stand in moody shadows, and refuse to crack a smile, while the impeccably authoritarian Garber snaps and sulks as mastermind Ron Trott.
Anyone who watches CSI will recognize Justice‘s A-to-Z inside-out shots of gadgetry. Anyone who saw Runaway Jury will recognize most of the legal ”tricks” they see here — witness prepping, jury consulting, accident re-creation. But there are nice, quick moments that underscore the sheer pageantry of a trial: Mader’s Alden wears a fake wedding ring because it makes jurors trust her more; Garber’s Trott orders the defendant to work his daughter’s name into his statement because it makes him seem more human. At the end of each episode we get to see a flashback of what really happened — then the case is done. With so many new shows being serialized only for the sake of a trend, it’s a relief to get some blessed closure for a change. Lawyers with no personal lives working interesting, freestanding cases: That formula has worked just fine for Law & Order these past 16 years. Justice feels like its nerdy-cool nephew.