The other day, I wrote about the new series on TNT, Murder in the FIrst, from co-creator Steven Bochco, a "one story/follow the whole case" program that harkens back to his brilliant, but unsuccessful Murder One, which.was ahead of its time by a decade.
The premiere was last Monday, following Major Crimes, a program I like a great deal, making this a potential two-hour block.
I solidly enjoyed Murder in the First, but it's impossible to judge the series based on the pilot, since I'm absolutely sure it's all about the twists and later the court case and more twists. That's what will determine how it is.
It certainly seems like it's more focused on the police investigation, rather than the courtroom like Murder One, and my preference (by far) is the other way around. I like the gamesmanship of a good courtroom drama. But a) obviously focusing on court didn't work the first time for Bochco (though in fairness it was a different time, when audiences weren't use to following a single story for the whole year), and b) I assume things will change significantly once the court case begins. But I don't get the sense that the court will be the focus of the series. So, I'm not sure how they'll handle that. After all, once the police have done their investigation and a case goes to trial...you'd think that there shouldn't be a whole lot of need for the police to be involved, at all. Perhaps they'll have even more twists at that point -- but it would sure seem like even that would have to be in the background once the trial has begun. Yet, right now the leads are two police detectives, and it would be odd to drop them once the audience has become invested with them for weeks on end. So, we'll see. Because I have faith in Steven Bochco and those he teams with, I'm intrigued to see how they handle it.
The leads do a nice job, but Kathleen Robertson and Taye Diggs -- good as they were -- don't have anywhere the gravitas of Daniel Benzali. The show seem to be going for a more "relatable" or hipper sensibility than substantive. (Great as Benzali was, "relatable" was not how you'd ever define his character. "Imperious" was closer. But for me, I found him utterly compelling. "Utterly compelling" is not how you'd define the characters for Ms. Robertson and Mr. Diggs.) Again, I'll see how that plays out and who they bring in. "Murder One" had a cast filled with substantive actors, though, too, and I don't feel that here -- yet. Steven Weber is along for the ride (again playing a pilot, for those who remember his Wings days...) and so is Richard Schiff, who I can rarely get enough of. Reader Douglass Abramson notes that James Cromwell will be joining the cast -- I assume as a lawyer -- so there may be other changes to come.
Murder in the First is smart and well-written, and needs many more twists and layers, but this was just the pilot, a small first step in a season-long journey, and I have no doubt they'll come in. I definitely liked it, but I withhold judgment to see how it develops.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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