Lifetime’s newest drama series, “For the People,” is about as fresh as day-old bread. It’s just another show exploring the inner workings of our already thoroughly dissected legal system. That’s not to say some viewers won’t relish familiar fare, but sloppy seconds don’t exactly make for exciting TV.
To its credit, “For the People” has an appealing and diverse cast, with secondary players such as Cecilia Suarez as the prickly Anita Lopez and A Martinez as a public defender offering a glimmer of hope for this otherwise tired concept.
If skein hopes to do battle in the ever-competitive cable series market, however, the producers have to acknowledge that today’s audience is judicially savvy. The shock factor of the debut seg’s courtroom cases barely even registers these days.
Series creator-writer Catherine LePard presents the “she said, she said” version of the frenetic Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office through two supposedly very different but very dedicated women. Camille Paris (Lea Thompson), as the chief deputy assistant D.A., wears her liberal heart on her sleeve. Her loyal underlings are dismayed as Camille preemptively packs up her office, sure the newly elected D.A., staunch conservative Lora Gibson (Debbi Morgan), will soon fire her. The two lock horns instantly, with Lopez, the new head prosecuting attorney, as Lora’s main attack dog.
But there’s never any doubt that these two sides of the same coin will work things out, and it isn’t too interesting watching them do it. The most dynamic elements of the show, it turns out, are garnered from the personal stories only briefly introduced in the pilot.
Camille has just taken her recovering alcoholic sister and nephew in to her fabulous hilltop home and has a short but cordial run-in with her ex-husband, public defender Michael Olivas (Martinez).
Martinez appears in just one scene, as does Lora’s family. LePard and company would be smart to utilize this full slate of characters in future episodes.
Thompson and Morgan are credible in their roles, but they’re given too little to work with in this world of cut-and-dried morality. Thesps clearly are capable, so why not take their characters into more nebulous territory, where right and wrong, liberal and conservative, aren’t as clearly defined?
It doesn’t help that as the show wears on, the dialogue dwindles from snappy discourse to prattle such as, “I don’t need things easy, I need them good.” In fact, Academy Award-winning short film helmer Peter Werner, who directed the pilot, often captures the emotional state of the characters better than the script.
It’s refreshing to see a show that takes place in Los Angeles actually filmed in town. Director of photography Neil Roach seems to relish the opportunity, offering as many palm trees and sun-soaked vistas as possible.
Other tech credits are fine, but a moratorium on freeze-frame endings would be welcome.