Raising the Bar - Premieres Monday, September 1st at 10pm on TNT
Well, the show doesn't quite raise the bar but it tries mightily hard and seems to get halfway there at least. Raising the Bar is the new Steven Bochco executive produced show for TNT but it's directed by his son Jesse and the show itself feels like an infant from Bochco's more famous shows (LA Law, NYPD Blue). Which isn't to say it's completely bad, it just feels like the it hasn't grown up enough yet to be legal.
The show throws Mark Paul Gosselaar as Jerry, a do gooder lawyer working as a Public Defender (we know he's good because he has scraggly unwashed hair, which sadly, goes against MPG's Saved By the Bell trademark) under his calm and good-natured boss (played by calm and good-natured Gloria Reuben, ER) and along with the rich good guy Richard (Teddy Sears, Ugly Betty, and added hottie Roberta (Natalie Cigliuiti, Saved By the Bell: The New Class), and all while going against the District Attorney's office led by a slimy Currie Graham (Men In Trees, Boston Legal) and his younger protoge Michelle (Melissa Sagemiller, looking like a cross between Katherine Heigl and Rachel Nichols) and Marcus (J. August Richards, Angel). There's a crazy vindictive judge played by Jane Kaczmarek as the total raging bitch Malcolm in the Middle's mom would have turned out if she had raised them until adulthood, and her assistant Charlie (an intriguing Jonathan Scarfe) she's having an affair with.
And of course, everyone is somehow connected to someone else that isn't revealed until the end of the first episode. Which is probably why the subsequent two episodes improved from the pedantic pilot.
So really, it's all an excuse to put some young attractive lawyers who happen to be "friends" (or at least in their own little social circle), all fighting for what they think is right but on two separate sides, but really, the show heavily slants on the Public Defenders as the good guys and the District Attorney's office as the bad, together as they are being watched by a bevy of older, more experienced professionals. It's the lawyer version of Grey's Anatomy and that's not such a bad thing.
The lawyers hang out at the same bar, work together and against each other for their own careers and to help their clients, and they are all being guided by an older group that somehow are just as involved within the younger social circle. Yup, sounds like Grey's Anatomy to me!
The heavy slant on the "good guys" Public Defenders isn't totally bad either. I must be getting soft or frustrated by "the man" because I found myself rooting for bad-haired Jerry (though again, it probably helped that episode 2 featured Jerry defending Percy Daggs III (Veronica Mars), and then Shane Johnson (Veronica Mars: FBI, the unseen season, Cold Case, the gay cop in love episode) in episode 3).
Between having some favorite character actors finally given the spotlight (Graham, Reuben, Kaczmarek), some Whedoneque connection cult fave (J.A. Richards), a Saved By The Bell alum connection (Gosselaar, Cigliuiti) and some surprisingly welcomed newbies (Scarfe, Sears), I actually got a little hooked by the third episode, though I will admit, the pilot was a little tedious at first, but as long as you can get past the first half, the show gets a bit more interesting from there, if not a little heavy handed. (I'm still on the fence about Sagemiller). Plus there's a nice gay twist (isn't there always now?) that may be a cheap ploy, but it worked to suck me in.
It's not a must see yet, but it was entertaining enough, and with a pretty great cast, so I will come back for more for now. So at this point, I'm being generous and giving the show ***1/2 (3.5 stars) and we will see where it takes us.
Here is a preview of the show:
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