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SERIES PREMIERE REVIEW: “The Firm” “Part 2 – Pilot” S1 E1

09 Jan

I’m not going to lie.  This is one of the shows I was REALLY looking forward to for mid-season.  If for no other reason that John Grisham is one of my all time favorite authors and I was very curious to see how they would adapt the book/movie into the small screen.

My initial thoughts…it has the potential to be a really good show.  There were things I liked (Josh Lucas), things I didn’t (Molly Parker), and things that surprised me (Juliette Lewis.)  I know I listed more people than things, but whatever.  I know a lot of people were upset that it was 2 hours.  That didn’t bother me.  I think there was a lot to introduce and revisit so I was ok with the idea that NBC decided to make it a 2 hour premiere.  The only crappy part was that I missed The Good Wife last night, which I heard was awesome!!!  But I digress.

What I Liked/What Worked

Right off the bat, I have to start with the leading man…Josh Lucas.  He was great as Mitch McDeere.  He was likable, smart, and easy to root for.  He played the perfect amount of intelligence, toughness, suspicion, family man, and grit.  He is someone you don’t want to mess with but someone who could be very fair.  He is well liked and respected but also someone who people feel could be manipulated…(cough, cough, Alex Clarke.)  I like seeing this mature version of Mitch McDeere.  In the book/movie, he was very green and made some very poor decisions.  I wouldn’t say he was a bad guy, but he was certainly easily swayed and controlled.  But after what he went through…taking down the mob and the law firm laundering money to them and almost losing his wife to an affair….he is the wiser and savvier McDeere.  He knows what he wants and what is precious to him and he will stop at nothing to do the right thing while keeping his family safe.

I have to say, I was surprised by how much I liked Juliette Lewis.  I have never liked her in anything.  She is not my cup of tea.  But I thought she was great in her limited screen time in the pilot.  I hope we get to see more of Tammy and Ray’s story.  Speaking of Ray, I really like Callum Keith Rennie.  I hated him in The Killing as Rick, the creepy fiance, but I like him here, so far.  My jury is out on whether or not Ray will really be the stand up guy he is right now.  So we’ll see.  I also liked Tricia Helfer as Alex Clarke.  I understand Helfer is one of those actresses that you either love or hate.  The only show I remember her from is Chuck.  I know she was on Battlestar Galactica but I never watched that show.  But I liked her here I thought she was set up to be a get foil for Mitch.

I think the biggest thing The Firm needed to do, was to set itself up as something other than a “family on the run” type of show.  I think watching the McDeeres flee terrible danger every week would not only get boring and redundant after a while but unbelievable and absurd.  You can have the tension, drama, and suspense, but you can do it without Mitch running for his life.  Even though the show opened with Mitch ostensibly, running for his life it doesn’t appear this all this show is going to be about.  This show, I hope, is going to be about this family and how they have rebuilt their lives both personally and professionally.  This show will be a law procedural but will also have the suspense elements of the book/movie.  At least, that is how the pilot set this up.  And I really like that.  We never got to see Mitch as a lawyer because he was just out of law school and eventually spent most of his time trying to bring down Bendini, Lambert, and Locke (BL&L.)  So I am looking forward to seeing him in the courtroom, handling cases, and seeing how his “association” with his own firm and the new firm collide.

There was a lot of things happening in the pilot and at times, it could be confusing.  I saw a lot of people on Twitter upset at the back and forth, they were confused, and thought the show was a bit boring and plodded along.  I think people were expecting more action because the big question I saw was “is this a law show or a suspense thriller?”  I think the answer is…both.  You have to remember, pilots, most of the time, are a bit stiff and slow because they are setting up the characters and story arc for the series/season.  So instead of being non stop action and suspense, it’s setting up the good stuff that is to come.  That’s, I think, what was happening last night.

What I Didn’t Like/Didn’t Work

If you followed my tweets last night during the show, you know the number one thing/person I didn’t like and that was Molly Parker’s Abby McDeere.  I thought Parker was very stiff, standoffish, and bland.  It’s hard not to make comparisons to their original portrayers from the movie (if you saw the movie) but Jeanne Tripplehorn, she is not.  Tripplehorn’s Abby was very sweet, supportive and slightly naive, but very intelligent and very strong.  Parker is none of those things.  But in fairness, she shouldn’t be the same character.  After what she went through, Abby should be very different.  Abby can still be sweet, supportive, intelligent and strong, but with her experience and knowledge, she should have those traits in an adapted manner.  And she most certainly shouldn’t be naive!!   The scene that bothered me the most was when they were visiting the new law firm and she was all giddy like a 5 year-old who just received her first Barbie doll.  How can you not be suspicious?  After what happened to you the last time?  And I hated that it felt just like the movie from the tour, to the party, to the music…it was a little too familiar.  There was also another time when Mitch went outside to look at the car outside their house and she came out wondering what he was doing.  After he said nothing, she bounced back inside to the party.  If that were me, I would be a little more suspicious.  After what happened in Memphis, after being in witness protection for 10 years, my senses would be on high alert.  I would have taken his curiosity outside, slightly more seriously and then asked him if he would tell me if there was something to worry about.  She seemed more concerned with cutting the cake.  I’m not saying the woman has to live like a bruting, panicked, wife but she just seems too matter-of-fact, life is a big bowl of cherries, for me.

In most of her scenes, she seemed to have a very blank look on her face to the point that she felt devoid of emotion in anything she was discussing.  I have commented before about how I really respect actors who can emote or convey just what they are thinking by the look on their face.  Parker isn’t in that category.  She’d be great on the World Series of Poker though. Her delivery was also deliberate and stale and some times came across as condescending.  And she seems to have very little chemistry with Lucas.  I think the young girl who played their daughter Claire, Natasha Calis, had more chemistry with Lucas than Parker.   I feel horrible saying all these bad things about Parker….I’m sure she’s a wonderful person and a good actress.  But I don’t buy her in this role.

One thing I thought was left out there was, what happened with witness protection?  I assume you can’t just leave the witness protection program and go back to your old life and your old names like nothing happened.  Especially if there is still danger out there.  Well apparently the McDeeres can.  I would have thought that during a 2 HOUR PREMIERE, it would have been addressed.  I hope they do at some point, because it needs to.  I’m not saying it will make or break the series, but it’s a question that should be answered.  Why were the McDeeres allowed to go back to their real names, move to a big city, and go back to their former careers with Joey Moralto’s son still out there hunting the McDeeres?   That makes no sense to me and I want an explanation.

Finally, I hope the show clearly defines what it wants to be…a law procedural, an action drama, a thriller, or a little of everything.  It seems the show is going to be a law procedural (using the success of The Firm franchise to sell it) with a little action/thriller mixed in.  My one suggestion is that the Moralto storyline be dropped.  While it could be interesting, it would force the McDeeres to be on the run.  It’s going to be hard to make this show a law procedural if every season the McDeeres are setting up a new shop on the run from the Moraltos or someone else.  However, I like the corrupt firm having something to hide and Mitch being involved without knowing it.  The only problem is, how long can you run with that?

I think the biggest problem this show will run into is association.  Because NBC went with The Firm, 10 years later, there is an expectation because of the book/movie, for more action and suspense vs. courtroom drama.  However, in order to sustain the show for multiple seasons, I think you need some element of law procedure to make it work.  You need something else.  The McDeeres can’t always be on the run because it’s not believable and would get tired very quickly.  I mean if NBC just wanted to make a thrilling law show, you could have went with a brand new name and cast of characters.  But using The Firm, I think you pigeon-hole yourself and there is a certain expectation from the viewers that you hope NBC can live up to on TV.

What’s the Early Rank (0-5 DVRS)

Drumroll please…..ok stop.  I give The Firm 3 DVRs.  I think this show has potential and I really liked it.  There are many great points to this show but there are some things that need to be worked on.  Also, since this pilot was really setting up the new story of these familiar character, I think it will delve into the law and the suspense more now that the “explaining” is, for the most part, behind them.  I think when people are SO familiar with a story, like people are with The Firm, you have even more set up to do, believe it or not, because people want to see what you are going to do differently.  What new, fresh ideas and spin are you bringing to the story.  I think the show did that last night and I am looking forward to see what happens to the McDeeres this season!

The problem is, the ratings were terrible.  The Firm premiered to a 1.4 in 18-49 with 6.3 million viewers.  To put that in perspective, The Cape, which NBC eventually canceled, debuted with a 2.6.  The Firm was 46% lower than The Cape and it was NBC’s lowest rated drama debut EVER.   Yikes.

Now, making lemonade out of lemons…The Cape wasn’t as a good a show as The Firm has the potential to be.  While I was REALLY looking forward to The Cape last year and thought it had enormous potential…the pilot and subsequent episodes, never lived up to the promise.  The story telling wasn’t sharp or compelling.  The Firm, doesn’t seem to have that problem.  Plus, last night was Tebow Mania!!!!!  Except in my house where my husband, the Steelers fan, was ready to sell every bit of Steeler memorabilia and jersey he owns….which is a lot people, trust me.  Not happy times in the For the Love of TV household last night folks.  So with the NFL playoffs, The Good Wife returning, I think a lot of people DVRed The Firm and will watch it later.  Which many people mentioned on Twitter last night.  I think the real test will come Thursday night in its regular time slot.  If that’s bad and the subsequent night is bad, start calling the fat lady.  Hopefully, this will be one area where name recognition helps the show.  But time will tell.

What did you think of The Firm?  Did you watch it?  If not, make sure you do and watch it live on Thursday night at 10pm!!!   But please let me know what you thought of the pilot!

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