Monday, March 10, 2008

TV premiering tonight: Canterbury's Law

Executive-produced by Rescue Me's Denis Leary and Jim Serpico, this show at times seems like it wants to be the legal version of RM, and Julianna Margulies' Elizabeth Canterbury definitely comes off as the female lawyer take on RM's Tommy Gavin. That's not a plus, though - while Rescue Me started out strongly, with an extreme but realistic tone, it has degenerated into silly melodrama over time. This show skips the realism and goes right for the extreme melodrama in the overwrought portrayal of Canterbury, who in the pilot gets punched out by a witness, coaches her client to lie on the stand, cheats on her husband, knocks back lots of liquor and agonizes over the case of her still-missing son. It's way too much, and a lot of it, especially the weepy back story, feels contrived. Margulies can be a very good actress, but here she seems to have decided to just chew the scenery.

The legal case is also entirely generic, and full of horribly implausible twists. If the character work were stronger, it might compensate, but outside of Canterbury herself it's almost nonexistent. Ben Shenkman gets a few nice moments as Canterbury's right-hand man, and given time he might grow into an interesting character; Canterbury, too, could be worth watching if they toned her down a bit. But with only five episodes produced for this season thanks to the strike, I doubt we'll get a chance to see anything valuable develop. Fox, Mondays, 8 p.m.

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