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Sunday, August 20, 2006

"Justice": Fall's First Must-See

The press releases for the new fall shows have given us some interesting descriptions. So, I’m going to try one myself.

If “CSI” and “Law & Order” married, and then went to the dark side, their child would be “Justice.”

And since it’s too early to declare a best new drama, I’ll just tell you that “Justice” is the fall’s first must-see new show.

From the hit-making mind of Jerry Bruckheimer, “Justice” follows the law firm of Trott, Nicholson, Tuller and Graves as we see the inner workings of what it takes to mount a defense. The show adds a special twist as at the end of the show, after the verdict is read, we see what actually happens and whether or not the client is really innocent.

Ron Trott (Victor Garber) is the face of the firm. He uses the media to spin their case and makes sure that all of the little psychological details get taken care of. Trott’s a brilliant attorney, but he’s not a people person. Juries hate him so Tom Nicholson (Kerr Smith), the “All-American face of not guilty,” leads the team in the courtroom. Alden Tuller (Rebecca Mader) handles the forensic evidence and Luther Graves (Eamonn Walker) pulls it all together with strategy and research.

In the premiere, TNT&G defends Kevin O’Neill, who is accused of murdering his wife by beating her in the head with a golf club. The firm’s first task is to deal with the DA turning the high profile case into a media circus (which they do quite cleverly). Then they get down to business as we see them search through the discovery documents and compose their arguments. Next they test those arguments with a focus group to see what kind of jurors they want. Then they try and pick those jurors with the help of a consultant. It all comes together in the courtroom with the help of a shadow jury who give their opinions as the case unfolds.

This case, though, gets tricky as the DA tries to sneak some evidence past the firm. Nicholson makes a risky move during jury selection and Tuller tries to get her favorite forensic witness to speak so a jury can actually understand him.

Helping fit all the pieces together is “American Justice” anchor Suzanne Fulcrum, who helps fill in the gaps by recapping all of the evidence and theories. She also has an interesting relationship with Trott as they use each other to help enhance their individual success.

The show is nicely put together as it moves quickly between each phrase of the defense’s case. Following the “Law & Order” format, there’s very little extraneous story though there’s plenty of potential for that later.

But “Justice”s greatest asset is its outstanding cast. After five years of playing good guy Jack Bristow on “Alias,” Garber is right at home playing a slick media hog (a more intense version of the character he played in “Legally Blonde”). This role was custom made for Garber and he knocks it out of the park. Walker is beautifully cast as the super slick Graves and Smith adds just the right touch as Nicholson, the firm’s conscience. Plus, Smith’s excellent chemistry with Mader just screams office romance for Nicholson and Tuller.

A show like “Justice” is nothing new for Jerry Bruckheimer, but in a fall season full of new serialized shows, it’s actually a breath of fresh air.

If you’re a fan of crime procedurals or you just like your shows to wrap things up in an hour, you’ll love “Justice.” But even if you’re more of a serialized fan (like me), I think you’ll love it too.

“Justice” premieres Wednesday, August 30th at 9 p.m. on FOX.