The premise of the new series Burden of Proof , errr, of TRUTH, is one as old as time, at least in legal premises for TV and movies. In fact, in this case, it involves two tropes thrown together.
First, there is the big city lawyer who comes to the small town world, and stays. Sometimes it’s a comedy, sometimes it’s a drama, but when it is in a TV series, it generally lasts one or two seasons, and then disappears.
Second, there is the Erin Brockovich storyline. A big bad company is harming the simple local folk, and must be brought to heel, in the form of a well-intentioned and principled David against the corporate Goliath. Which is also only good for one season, and then you’re done.
So why would ABC greenlight an in-house studio show about a lawyer from the big city coming to the small town, immediately switch gears so they go from bad lawyer (not my client!) to good lawyer (let’s find another defendant!) in the first episode, and ask Kristin Kreuk to headline it? I have no idea. Sure she was in the TV series Beauty and the Beast, as well as Smallville, but did anyone watch either of those shows for the Beauty or Lana?
Back at the start of the season, this one wasn’t even announced, so it didn’t make my pre-season review. But I can tell you what I would have said:
Big city lawyer returns to small-town roots to fight a corporate Goliath? Dead before the end of the season, no renewal.
Now that I’ve watched the episode, it’s even worse than I expected. She’s from the small town and she wants to go back, partly as whatever happened when she left with her parents involved some sort of scandal and she wants to sort of face it. But her character is ALL over the map. I have no idea who she is or who she is supposed to be.
At the start of the episode, she’s the organized, competent lawyer — the star of the firm. Which we find out because people tell us, but the evidence is sparse except for her high-end loft-style apartment. If she’s chic, she must be good, right? Whatever. Anyway, she seems more insecure than hard-edged pro litigator, which is Kreuk’s strength — not hard edged, but softer edged. A thousand actresses could do it better, and all of them guest-starred on LA Law 20 years ago. Heck, some of them are on Suits now. But I digress.
Then she’s Daddy’s little girl at the firm, except not really, there’s very little sign of actual comfort between them. Yet apparently they work together all the time and have done so for years. Riiiight.
I don’t know who the guy in her main office is…husband, boyfriend, fiancée, wannabe something? It seems like they’re involved together, then it seems like they’re not, I’m lost. I don’t even remember what they said the relationship was, but I didn’t “see” it.
So drive to her old hometown, visit her old school, meet with someone leading a charge in favour of a vaccine that people claim is causing the problem, except it isn’t. And these two former best friends have ZERO chemistry. Not old chemistry, not new chemistry, nada. So nothing to see or bond with.
There is a local bohunk in the form of opposing counsel, but after he’s trounced in court, they can make nice nice and work together on finding a new defendant i.e. cause. Because as he informs her, “You know you’re the bad guy, right?” in the initial scenario where she’s trouncing him in court. And while they’ll work together, and eventually there will be romance of some sort for the viewers to watch their angst, they have NO SPARK at all together.
There are only two scenes in the entire episode that have any spirit. The first is a woman in a bar who finds out Kreuk’s last name and slugs her (trite but interesting); the second is a young victim, whose life has been turned upside down because of the symptoms, calling out Kreuk’s character for who she is and what she does for a living. The big moment. And it’s NOT EVEN THE LEAD’S moment. She’s just watching it.
I don’t know which I found worse. The lameness of her character’s passivity for the whole episode or the blandness of the entire premise, where they even have to stoop to showing you the various scenes of all the victims so they can pull at your heartstrings and let you know “this is serious stuff”. Snore.
Maybe somebody from the Beauty and the Beast fan base will be following, or the conspiracy fans who hate large corporations (you know there has to be a bad guy found eventually). But it sure won’t be me. It is one of the worst shows I have seen in five years.