Sunday, November 19, 2017
TV and Media

Review: Legal drama 'Doubt' just might be the hit Katherine Heigl needs

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There's no doubt Katherine Heigl really, really wants us to like her.

After her Emmy-winning role in Grey's Anatomy came her zealous appetite to become the next great movie rom-com heroine (27 Dresses, The Ugly Truth). Viewers didn't embrace her two years ago on NBC's heavily promoted political thriller State of Affairs, which was canceled after its first season.

Now Heigl makes a safe bet, choosing a CBS procedural, Doubt, scripted by two Grey's writers. The legal drama is a long time coming for the network, which ordered the series back in 2015 but had it completely reworked for Heigl and Steven Pasquale. The 13-episode first season finally premieres at 10 p.m. Wednesday.

Doubt has shades of Grey's, but it mostly feels like a Good Wife ripoff. The Good Wife took a topical — and provocative — premise (wife of disgraced politician goes back to work in a law firm headed by her college ex-boyfriend) and sprinkled it with weekly courtroom drama and surrounding whip-smart characters with juicy personal lives. Doubt is trying to do just that.

Heigl plays Sadie, a brilliant New York defense lawyer who oozes confidence and loves bold lipstick and riding her bike to work. (That last part is a little less believable.)

Her newest case is defending a charming rich doctor with McDreamy hair that she can't help falling for. Billy Brennan (played by Pasquale), son of a senator, is charged with killing his teenage girlfriend years ago, and he looks pretty guilty. But Sadie works hard to prove his innocence, even if it's lust fueling her determination.

But Sadie is also skeptical of Billy, leading to some interesting chemistry. Each episode brings a new twist in the case, feeding their questionable relationship. This star-crossed romance isn't quite enough to entertain for an hour each week, so thankfully there's a fantastic supporting cast with its own stories.

Let's start with the wonderful Laverne Cox (Orange Is the New Black). After CBS caught heat last fall for its six new shows with all white-male leads, they promised shows with diversity. Now CBS execs can say they hired the first transgender actress playing an openly transgender woman on a major network. Cox plays Cameron, a compassionate attorney who works in the same law firm, led by Elliott Gould's Isaiah, whose colorful ties are as delightful as his humor. But we won't say much more about him, since he's part of the classic twist pushing the show's momentum at the end of the first episode.

Dulé Hill (The West Wing, Psych) plays Albert, Sadie's work partner. They're a perfect team testing each other's egos by constantly disagreeing on defense tactics. Albert lets his personal life — and dog — suffer because Doubt incessantly reminds us that defense lawyers are real-life heroes. The firm's mission statement includes the phrase "stand by your fellow man in their darkest hour." That probably doesn't include making out with them after work.

So how high and mighty can these lawyers stand when one of them is tangling tongues with a client? It's clear the devoted legal team isn't necessarily as idealistic about the criminal justice system as they claim. Sneaky power plays and rule-bending aren't anything new for TV attorneys, but it's fun to watch these characters play the game.

During this time full of bingeable shock-and-twist TV, Doubt falls back to the familiar. CBS knows the formula; there's a reason it has the most viewers of any network. Amid the expected, Doubt will please an eager audience, and it just might be the hit Heigl craves.

Contact Brittany Volk at [email protected] Follow @bevolk.

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