×
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

  • Ari Emanuel Endeavor

    Endeavor IPO Filing Offers Details of Company's Financials, Leadership Pay Packages

    Endeavor’s IPO filing Thursday offers a hard look at the company’s financial performance during the past three years during a period of rapid growth for the company that’s home to UFC, WME, Professional Bull Riders and a clutch of other assets. Endeavor is generating solid free cash flow from operations and healthy adjusted earnings for [...]

  • Blake Jenner What If TV Show

    'What/If' Star Blake Jenner on Creating Chemistry With Jane Levy, Renee Zellweger

    Blake Jenner first rose to fame in 2012 when he won “The Glee Project” and therefore earned a role on “Glee” proper. In the years since, though, he graduated from teen heartthrob status to meatier, edgier roles in films such as “American Animals” and now the Netflix limited series “What/If,” in which he stars opposite [...]

  • Mario Lopez Candy Crush

    Mario Lopez, Seth Kurland Set Latinx Family Comedy Series at Netflix

    Mario Lopez and Seth Kurland are teaming up for a new comedy series at Netflix. Variety has learned that the streamer has given a 16 episode order to the multi-cam comedy “The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia” co-created by Lopez and Kurland. In the series, when Ashley Garcia — the world’s only 15-and-a-half-year-old robotics engineer [...]

  • HBO logo

    TV News Roundup: HBO Announces Recipients of 2019 HBOAccess Writing Fellowship

    In today’s roundup, Fox Nation announces a fresh slate of programming for the summer and HBO announces the recipients of its HBOAccess Writing Fellowship. DEVELOPMENT: HBO has announced the recipients of its 2019 HBOAccess Writing Fellowship. The eight writers selected out of the 3,000 submissions will participate in an 8-month program of master classes and [...]

  • Big Bang Theory

    'Big Bang Theory,' 'Manifest' Among Top Live+7 Gainers of 2018-2019 Season

    With 2018-2019 broadcast season wrapping up, certain shows stand head and shoulders above their competition in the Nielsen Live+7 rankings. Live+7 data is currently available only through May 5, but the top dogs will likely see little change once the final numbers are in for the traditional September-May season. The top gainer in adults 18-49 [...]

  • Anna Kendrick Paul Feig

    Anna Kendrick, Paul Feig Team for Comedy Anthology Series at WarnerMedia Streaming Service

    Anna Kendrick and Paul Feig are coming to the WarnerMedia streaming service Variety has learned that the upcoming streamer has ordered the romantic comedy anthology series “Love Life,” the first season of which will star Kendrick with Feig executive producing. WarnerMedia has ordered a 10-episode first season of the half-hour series. Lionsgate Television and FeigCo [...]

  • Jon Feltheimer

    Lionsgate Posts Loss, Underperforms Wall Street Expectations

    Lionsgate has posted a quarterly loss and its revenues and operating income have come in under Wall Street projections, despite growth from its premium cable channel, Starz. The studio reported a net loss of $24 million, or 11 cents a share, with adjusted operating income of $103 million for its fourth fiscal quarter ended March [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content