×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Exonerated

First, a personal confession to a critical misdemeanor: I fell asleep while watching this sober adaptation of an off-Broadway play -- which, shockingly, has never happened before -- demonstrating that social advocacy and entertainment value don't always go hand in hand. This theater piece features a high-wattage cast reading the words of Death Row inmates later proved innocent.

With:
Robert Earl Hayes - David Brown Jr. Gary Gauger - Brian Dennehy David Keaton - Danny Glover Delbert Tibbs - Delroy Lindo Kerry Max Cook - Aidan Quinn Sunny Jacobs - Susan Sarandon

First, a personal confession to a critical misdemeanor: I fell asleep while watching this sober adaptation of an off-Broadway play — which, shockingly, has never happened before — demonstrating that social advocacy and entertainment value don’t always go hand in hand. Featuring a high-wattage cast reading the words of Death Row inmates later proved innocent, this theater piece is so clenched and stagy it’s difficult to get drawn into the production, however well intentioned it might be.

As mounted by director Bob Balaban, think of this as “The Convicted Monologues,” a series of dissertations on the justice system keyed to a half-dozen convicts who were wrongly imprisoned. Shot against a stark black backdrop, it’s a strong statement against the death penalty (dead men, after all, are hard to set free) and a showcase for the actors, albeit one with more earnestness than energy.

Credit Court TV conceptually, at least, for tackling the material, an unflinching look (including frequent use of a rarely heard racial epithet) at abuses and failings of a justice system the channel otherwise exalts within many of its shows. The production notes, in fact, describe it as “cause-related programming,” which is certainly a seldom-used term.

Yet despite the blunt language and a few striking observations (one inmate says he “had to practice a bunch to be human again”), “The Exonerated” lacks the crackle of a live production and does precious little to capitalize on the movie format. And while Court TV can doubtless derive some pride from having the likes of Susan Sarandon, Danny Glover and Brian Dennehy in one of its originals, the intercutting among their various stories — bridged by slow fadeouts and David Robbins’ soothing score — plays like an expensive lullaby.

Debating the dangers inherent to capital punishment is undoubtedly a worthy cause, regardless of where one comes down on the issue. As for providing viewers with good cause to sit through this polemic, unless they’re insomniacs that’s something else again.

The Exonerated

Court TV; Thurs., Jan. 27, 9 p.m.

Production: Filmed in New York City by Radical.Media/Chicagofilms in association with the Culture Project. Executive producers, Bob Balaban, Allan Buchman; producers, Greg Schultz, Steven Tabakin; line producer, Karen Wolfe; co-producers, Jessica Blank, Erik Jensen, Mort Kasman; director, Balaban; writers, Blank, Jensen.

Crew: Camera, Rufus Standefer; editor, Andy Keir; music, David Robbins; casting, Nina Pratt, Kim Moarefi. 120 MIN.

Cast: Robert Earl Hayes - David Brown Jr. Gary Gauger - Brian Dennehy David Keaton - Danny Glover Delbert Tibbs - Delroy Lindo Kerry Max Cook - Aidan Quinn Sunny Jacobs - Susan Sarandon

More TV

  • Rupert Murdoch

    BBC Orders Documentary Series About Rupert Murdoch’s Print Empire

    The BBC has ordered “A Tabloid Empire,” a three-part documentary series about Rupert Murdoch’s influence over the British press. The series will air on BBC Two in the U.K. and examine in detail the popular press in the U.K. between 1997 and 2012, a period that takes in phone hacking and corruption but also during [...]

  • Supergirl -- "Elseworlds, Part 3" --

    'Elseworlds, Part 3' Recap: 2019 ‘Arrowverse’ Crossover Theme Revealed

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Elseworlds, Part 2,” the final part of the 2018 “Arrowverse” crossover, which aired Dec. 11. After John Deegan (Jeremy Davies) got another go at using the Book of Destiny to rewrite reality, the “Elseworlds” finale saw Barry (Grant Gustin) and Oliver (Stephan Amell) facing [...]

  • The Netflix logo is displayed at

    TV Roundup: Netflix Orders Ted Bundy Docu-Series

    In today’s TV roundup, Netflix has ordered a docu-series on serial killer Ted Bundy and “Love, Gilda” sets a premiere date on CNN FIRST LOOKS Variety has obtained an exclusive clip of “Into the Okavango,” the upcoming National Geographic film. Premiering Dec. 14 on Nat Geo, the film, six years in the making, follows a [...]

  • Amy Poehler Is Ready for a

    Amy Poehler Is Ready for a 'Parks and Rec' Reunion

    Is Amy Poehler just getting our hopes up? We hope not, because the funny lady tells Variety that she’s ready for a “Parks and Recreation” reunion. “I am technically available,” Poehler said on Monday at Smart Girls’ 10th anniversary celebration dinner. “I have like six of Leslie’s blazers in my closet, so anytime.” “Parks and Recreation” [...]

  • Liz Meriwether Lake Bell

    Lake Bell, Liz Meriwether Comedy 'Bless This Mess' Moves From Fox to ABC With Series Order

    “Bless This Mess,” the single-camera comedy co-created by Lake Bell and Elizabeth Meriwether, has been ordered to series at ABC, Variety has learned. The series had previously been in contention at Fox and is a co-production between 20th Century Fox Television and ABC Studios. Bell also stars in the series alongside Dax Shepard. In the series, a [...]

  • 'Get Shorty' Renewed for Season 3

    'Get Shorty' Renewed for Season 3 at Epix

    Epix has renewed “Get Shorty” for Season 3. The loose adaptation of the 1990 Elmore Leonard novel and subsequent film stars Chris O’Dowd, Ray Romano, Lidio Porto, Megan Stevenson, Sean Bridgers, and Carolyn Dodd. In the series, O’Dowd plays a hitman from Nevada who struggles to shed his criminal past after he moves to Hollywood to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content