NBC is offering two previews of its new one-hour drama series, which will eventually settle into its 9-10 p.m. slot on Saturdays, in what may be a comfortable berth just preceding “Sisters.” With Cicely Tyson and Melissa Gilbert as two barristers in a small Southern town, “Sweet Justice” opens with a sentimental mother-child meller; the magnolia folks are jim dandy, but Gilbert seems to be surface playing.
Kate Delacroy (Gilbert), successful N.Y. attorney, flies home for her sister’s engagement party and finds herself involved with a school acquaintance, whose wealthy husband took away their small boy after she charged hubby with abusing the kid.
Intrigued, Kate talks with her late mother’s law partner, Carrie Grace Battle (Tyson), who invites her to work the case out of her less-than-plush office.
Kate’s family, headed by patriarch James Lee Delacroy (Ronny Cox), is loaded. Conservative dad James Lee doesn’t much like his older daughter defending the waitress ex-wife, especially because the accused daddy is his friend Tom Fletcher. Kate pulls some background tricks and courtroom stunts that make it all look simple.
It also sets the stage for Kate joining Battle-Ross & Associates.
Ably directed by Michael Dinner, the program is more a diversion than a courtroom hard hitter. Gilbert manages well enough, even if she’s not altogether believable as a brilliant Wall Street attorney, while Tyson and Cox exhibit how to create genuine characters.
Greg Germann and Jim Antonio, both energetic and individualistic, are players on Tyson’s legal team, and they’re strong.
Newsman Bailey Connors (Jason Gedrick), Kate’s onetime beau, squires her around but doesn’t seem to do much work. Megan Gallivan limns Anne, Kate’s engaged sister. As the custody-warring couple, Kathleen York and David Newson are terrif.
Production looks good, with designer Robert Baker making the most of Southern sites blended with Southern California areas. Arthur Albert’s lensing and James Austin Stewart’s editing are accomplished.