Jerry Bruckheimer's latest hour occasionally feels like a parody of courtshows, what with its hyperactive pace, pointless "CSI"-type visual bells and whistles and misdirected premise depicting high-priced defense attorneys as semi-good guys. For all his success, the Bruckheimer express hit a few potholes last season, and don't be surprised if audiences turn a blind eye to "Justice."
All sizzle and no steak, producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s latest hour occasionally feels like a parody of courtshows, what with its hyperactive pace, pointless “CSI”-type visual bells and whistles and misdirected premise depicting high-priced defense attorneys as semi-good guys. Granted, CBS’ “Shark” mines similar terrain, but at least its shyster becomes a prosecutor thanks to pangs of guilt. For all his success, the Bruckheimer express hit a few potholes last season (remember “Just Legal?”), and don’t be surprised if audiences turn a blind eye to “Justice.”
Perhaps the most glaring flaw in the show’s case is that the idea feels about 10 years too late — an opportunity to peek inside the machinations of O.J.’s defense team, assuming that people want these guns for hire to get their clients acquitted.
Somewhere hidden within this framework is a provocative exploration of a perverted legal system, one where attorneys flock to waiting cameras and cable buffoons like those featured on “American Crime” — “Justice’s” fictional show within a show — render their own insta-verdicts. Alas, that’s considerably deeper than writers Jonathan Shapiro (who created the aforementioned “Just Legal”) and Tyler Bensinger intend to go.
Instead, the premiere is rife with the customary legal jousting, as Ron Trott (Victor Garber) — the patriarch of defense firm TNT&G — laments the rushes to judgment and spends half his time as a guest on “American Crime,” while simultaneously chiding prosecutors for staging a “trial by TV.”
Mixing familiar court cliches, the firm represents a wealthy client charged with killing his unfaithful wife, handing trial chores to young buck Tom Nicholson (“Dawson Creek’s” Kerr Smith), who juries are said to love. Meanwhile, the action zips along augmented by wholly gratuitous computer derring-do — from an attorney’s clothes morphing from one outfit into another to focus-group results that literally zoom from control box to wire as an electronic pulse.
In Fox’s “House” or Bruckheimer’s “CSI” franchise, such visual FX make a modicum of sense, offering a window into an ailing (or dead) body. Here, the tricks seem nonsensical — calibrated, much like the defense-team strategies, for no purpose other than to dazzle and distract.
“Justice” also features “Oz” alum Eamonn Walker and Rebecca Mader to create a kind of “The Mod Squad”-plus-one lineup, but other than Garber — who plays Trott with a perpetually arched eyebrow — TNT&G doesn’t pack much of a wallop, and Smith, frankly, looks too much like a second-year law student to be convincing as a top-gun litigator.
The prosecutor, moreover, is a foaming-at-the-mouth cartoon, running counter to the law-and-order conceit behind most court and crime fare. Shapiro wrote for “The Practice,” which also played in these waters, but this new hour does so without any of that program’s nuance. In almost every respect, rather, the show’s about as subtle as blunt force trauma to the head.
At the close, “Justice” reenacts what “really” happened, demonstrating whether justice was truly done. In TV, there’s only one jury that matters, but based on the available evidence, the judgment here is guilty of silliness in the first degree.