TV Review: ‘The Divide’

The Divide Wetv TV Review

Marking WE’s first scripted drama, “The Divide” appears to harbor aspirations to be more than just another cop/crime show, but its two-hour premiere stumbles along the way. Created by Richard LaGravenese and actor/director Tony Goldwyn, the show seeks to delve into race through the prism of long-solved but controversial murders. Yet there’s a corner-cutting quality to the series — beginning with the casting — that makes this feel like a decidedly off-Broadway effort. So while WE has demonstrated it’s willing to order drama as the network rebrands itself, the channel faces more work to prove it can be a significant player in this crowded field.

There’s no nice way to say the leads simply aren’t especially compelling, which might help better sell this otherwise familiar tale that hinges on a central mystery built around a death-penalty case.

Marin Ireland plays Christine Rosa, an ambitious law student working for something called the Innocence Initiative, which endeavors to help those who the criminal-justice system has mistreated. In her eagerness, she steps out of bounds, in the eyes of her boss (Paul Schneider), by seeking to help a white inmate, Jared Bankowski (Chris Bauer), due to be executed in a few weeks for the murder of a well-to-do African-American family 12 years earlier, even though he hasn’t sought help or made any protestations regarding his innocence.

Ultimately, it all plays like the old adventures of new Christine. Her investigation naturally threatens entrenched interests, including a prosecutor (Damon Gupton) who burnished his reputation by winning a conviction in the case, which at the time had threatened to divide the city. Christine, however, is the kind of hard-driving idealist (with a backstory to help explain why) who won’t let go, which raises the specter of reopening old wounds, endangering careers and fraying relationships.

In the right hands, this might all be more interesting. But the two pivotal roles don’t convey much pop, hinting at the show’s limitations, and being partly responsible for them. The same goes for the central mystery — if Bankowski and the other fellow convicted didn’t commit the murders, who did? — which reflects the kind of story Investigation Discovery regularly dispenses in an hour or less.

As the writer of such films as “The Bridges of Madison County,” LaGravenese does provide his cast with some sharp dialogue in places — Schneider’s character tells Christine, as a lawyer, to “get used to knowing what should happen, and accepting what does” — but it can’t lift the material beyond formula.

Based on what’s here, there’s also something mildly pretentious about the producers’ promise (in a note to media) to examine “where racism exists in today’s ‘Obama’s America,’ ” while opening the show with a quote from Nietzsche.

It’s clear the title “The Divide” is intended to refer to various rifts in society. For the purposes of this series, though, the most significant line turns out to be the one that separates good from not so good.

TV Review: 'The Divide'

(Series; WE, Wed. July 16, 9 p.m.)

Production

Filmed in Philadelphia by AMC Studios.

Crew

Executive producers, Richard LaGravenese, Tony Goldwyn, John Tinker; co-executive producer, Andrew Sugerman; producer, Terry Gould; director, Goldwyn; writer, LaGravenese; camera, Janusz Kaminski; production designer, Rocco Matteo; music, Dhani Harrison. 120 MIN.

Cast

Marin Ireland, Damon Gupton, Nia Long, Paul Schneider, Clarke Peters, Joe Anderson

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 7

Leave a Reply

7 Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. Dairn says:

    I disagree with the review as well. It was deliciously slow to start, and I was sold. I am not a
    fan of American programming. Having just watched this on NFlix I was disappointed to learn
    that it will not be continued…..and the ratings continue to rise.

  2. Donna Marie says:

    Sorry, Brian, but I totally disagree with your review. I have been riveted to my seat since the first episode. I love everything about this series. The actors are amazing and the story is very interesting.

  3. calling the casting cut rate is a profoundly stupid comment. Do series require *celebrity* actors for this reviewer to feel comfortable? Its a very good show, and no corners are cut. In fact, its the best new show of the year probably.

  4. Darrell Finn says:

    The leads are’t compelling? Are you bonkers???? And off broadway is not synonymous with “corner cutting”…

  5. Cecile Hersh says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed the show and looking forward to seeing each episode. But, was it really necessary to make a crack about Fox News? That was uncalled for.
    Otherwise, it was great. My compliments to the actors, authors, directors etc.

  6. Chris says:

    Couldn’t take more than 15 mins of this series. The girl wanna be attorney was pushy and annoying. She lied to everyone just to get her way. Too much race card also. I want to be entertained and not preached to.

    • Jeania Howard says:

      I attempted to watch the entire series today. Notice I say, “attempted.” When a statement was made to a reporter who was trying to get information, the snarly retort was asking if he got his journalism degree from, “Fox News.” WHAT? I don’t want to hear conservative vs liberal on a show which should be delineating the difference between what is done well in both the prosecution and the defense. Please, get rid of some of the tears and depression from the lead actress. Just tell it like it is, without all the, “fake drama.” Terrible show. I’ll never watch it again.

      Jeania Howard

More TV News from Variety

Loading