CBS’ new “Courthouse’s” wobbly premise and unlikable characters don’t portend well for this ensemble series, which is likely to have viewers filing a motion for dismissal.
The starting opening sequence — the graphic courtroom murders of a judge and a convicted felon — is likely to draw in viewers, but similar punches to the gut fail to materialize in the meandering, albeit stylish offering. The shooting is also used as a device to familiarize viewers with the series regulars, as it sets in motion an examination of courthouse security, the lives of its denizens and the motives for the killings.
Presiding Judge Justine Parkes (Patricia Wettig) runs her courthouse with an iron gavel and cuts little slack for her male colleagues. The murders shake up the status quo, which is further challenged when she learns the murdered judge spent a significant amount of time dipping into the secretarial pool between trials. Perhaps taking a cue from “L.A. Law,” the discovery of the judge’s partners is used as a running gag.
And then there’s public defender Veronica Gilbert (Nia Peeples), an optimistic and overly sympathetic sort who challenges the legal system at every turn, yet seemingly learns nothing from the experience. With show’s tried-and-true attempts to generate sympathy for her, it becomes apparent that its material is strictly a rehash of ground covered by other legal-themed series.
Some of the pilot’s biggest missteps come with the addition of Judge Wyatt Jackson (Brad Johnson), a newly appointed, beefcakey magistrate from Montana who gets shirtless moments and is an eventual love interest for Parkes.
Show is further hampered by director Ron Lagomarsino’s failure to elicit more than stiff readings from show’s principals, and a smorgasbord of supporting cast members come and go too quickly to strike a chord with viewers.
Scripter-exec producer Deborah Joy LeVine wisely tempers her grasp of the inner workings of the justice system with an emphasis on relationships and strong female leads. But her efforts fail to elevate the flat acting.
Production designer Brandy Alexander revisits “thirty something” to create aesthetically pleasing sets and adroitly dressed locales, including using L.A. City Hall as the fictional Clark County Courthouse, to make show easy on the eyes despite its harshness on the ears.