“Conviction”

By Jae-Ha Kim
Amazon.com
August 22, 2006

Created by Dick Wolf, the seemingly unstoppable mastermind behind the Law & Order franchise, Conviction tells the stories of a group of young, driven, and genetically gifted prosecutors working for the New York District Attorney’s office, which is led by Alexandra Cabot (Stephanie March). Cabot was last seen as a young gun assistant district attorney herself on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. There she was a crusading and idealistic lawyer fighting to buck a corrupt system. But on Conviction, her character has turned into the type of bureaucrat she used to despise–one who thinks more about the bottom line than the true meaning of justice. Though she obviously still has feelings for her underling and former beau Jim Steele (Anson Mount), she becomes engaged to a well-connected man (the day after she and Steele have a one-night stand).

The series, which was canceled after its first season in 2006, has a more soap opera feel than Wolf’s other shows. While the meat of the 13 episodes is in their fight to lock up rapists and murderers, the heart of the show lies in the private lives of the young attorneys. Steele has a “just sex” relationship with Jessica Rossi (Milena Govich), a promising young lawyer who butts heads with him at work. Nick Potter (played by Beau Bridges’ son, Jordan) left a six-figure salary at a private law firm to work for the people. Billy Desmond (J. August Richards), who hasn’t lost a case, finds himself falling for a mess of a girl despite himself. And ladies man Brian Peluso (Eric Balfour) and wide-eyed cutie Christina Finn (Julianne Nicholson) find it easier to play verbal footsie than admit their feelings for each other.

Though the dramatic content isn’t lacking, there are some moments where even suspending your belief in reality really doesn’t help much. In one episode, a murderer takes some of the attorneys hostage in a courtroom. Demanding respect, he refuses to answer their questions unless they address him in legalese. It’s almost laughable watching the supposedly terrified lawyers popping up and down to address him as “your honor.” In another scene, Finn warns another gunman–who has already killed another hostage–that the police may be trying to trick him.

But overall, the series has a nice rhythm that could’ve carried over for another solid season or two. NBC was quick to ax the drama, just as it did with Wolf’s 2005 series Law & Order: Trial by Jury. It’s too bad because Conviction–which could’ve been retitled Law & Order: The Wonder Years–showed a lot of promise.

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