Julianna Margulies returned to network television as Elizabeth Canterbury, a defense attorney with issues, in Canterbury's Law. The executive producer is Denis Leary, the star of Rescue Me, which is another drama on FX (another FOX network) and as many of you know, I am huge fan of Rescue Me.
Most of the cast was unknown to me. Elizabeth's three associates are played by actors that I have never seen in anything. Even Aidan Quinn as Elizabeth's husband Matt was almost unrecognizable in his first scene. None of the actors turned me off, but they didn't sparkle. That puts a lot of pressure on Margulies to carry the show.
In the pilot, Elizabeth is defending a young man name Ethan who has been accused of killing a boy and hiding his body. Public opinion is already against Ethan because he had been convicted previously for statutory rape. However Elizabeth believes that he is innocent and is willing to go to any lengths to prove it, including putting her career on the line by having Ethan lie on the witness stand.
This story is interchangeable with the ones I've seen on Law and Order or CSI. I could tell who the real culprit was going to be about 15 minutes into the show. The plot isn't what kept me watching. It was Margulies' portrayal of Elizabeth that kept me glued to the screen. Her Elizabeth was a cynical smart-aleck in chambers and with her colleagues, but the minutes she was with the client I could tell that Elizabeth truly believed in his innocence. There wasn't a hint of reserve or sarcasm.
Even though the plot was tired, the pacing of the show was quick enough that I almost didn't mind. I didn't feel like I was watching the set-up episode of a new show. The writers gave me just enough information to figure out each character's role in the story and then moved the scenes along. There were hints of a few mysteries in the characters' backgrounds to keep the viewers coming back for at least a few episodes.
Canterbury's Law is a legal drama. There are plenty of those on TV already. In my opinion, the only reason that there are so many versions of the same show is that viewers prefer one actor over another. But I'm going to give Canterbury's Law a shot to see Julianna Margulies breathe new life into tired plots.