Pilot Review: The Whole Truth

We follow both the prosecution and defence teams as they investigate crimes, try to undermine each other, and ultimately win or lose when the verdict comes in. Unfortunately the verdict was that no-one was watching, so it was cancelled.

The show is built around the double-act of Rob Morrow (Numbers, Northern Exposure) and Maura Tierney (ER), the laid-back defence attorney and the uptight prosecuting district attorney respectively. The laid back and uptight is all laid on a bit thick, he wears sneakers with his suits, she drinks coffee and has meetings in a gun range. Their characters apart are pretty unremarkable and dull, but together there was actually something interesting going on. The relationship had a good mix of respect and irritation, there’s a long history, and together they’re nowhere near as irritating as they are apart.

While the schedules are pretty crowded with legal dramas, this one actually had an interesting unique selling point to it beyond relocating to a new city (Law and Order: LA, I’m looking at you!). With both the prosecution and the defence teams being central characters, no matter whether the the verdict comes in guilty or not-guilty, one group wins and the other loses. But neither side are really the bad guys.
I would usually avoid spoilering a pilot, but as it’s already been cancelled I think I’ll make an exception as describing the plot highlights where the show sort of let itself down.

The case of the week is about a public school teacher, father of two and husband to a cancer fighting wife who is accused of raping and murdering a student, a good little religious ‘angel’ as the press dub her. As the case developed (at a slightly breakneck speed) I was coming down on the side of not-guilty, yeah the guy turned out to have made some dubious choices, but the evidence against him seemed pretty circumstantial and he was pretty convincing as a normal bloke that suddenly found all sorts of crap coming at him.

But then, somewhat suddenly a slightly more credible piece of evidence appeared and he was found guilty. Throughout the rest of the episode there was a nice back-and-forth as one side found a piece of evidence and the other discredited. But with the final piece, it felt that the defence team never really got a chance to respond.

But then, in a rather creepy final scene we find out that not only did the guy actually commit the murder, but that it wasn’t in a “heat of the moment” kind of way, rather a really creepy “keeping souvenirs” kinda way. It just felt too fast and convenient. (Also I’m fairly certain that in a case where there’s a key piece of evidence missing, the police would probably have turned the suspect’s house upside down. Just one of a number of dubiously convenient procedural oversights.)

This highlights a couple of issues. The losing side this time (and I’m guessing that the same side won’t always lose) lost because they were taken in by their client. So immediately they look dumber than the other side. The other problem is that at no point did we see the conversation where the defence lawyer said – “you need to tell me the truth, even if you did it, it’s my job to get you off anyway”. And of course that’s the problem, how can we have our ‘heroes’ defending real bad guys? Or on the flip side, our ‘heroes’ viciously going after victims of circumstance? I’m guessing there’ll be a bit of mileage in cases where the person is guilty in the eyes of the law, but innocent in the eyes of popular opinion. But I’m not sure this show will work if the ‘right’ side always wins.

Thanks to debuting with some pretty terrible ratings and going downhill from there, the show has been pulled from the air (although apparently they’ll finish making the half season of 13 episodes). I might actually be intrigued enough to try out a couple more episodes, but more from the academic interest of wondering how they’d handle the complex balancing act rather than any particular enjoyment of the show itself.

Reviews:
TV Squad: Despite being a drama about lawyers, ‘The Whole Truth’ doesn’t even begin to have the courage of its convictions. Every point is hammered home with a complete lack of subtlety; during the closing argument in the pilot, bits of previous scenes were replayed at crucial moments, in case the audience forgot what transpired several minutes ago. It’s always a good time when a television network assumes that you’re a half-wit.

CliqueClack: A few moments into The Whole Truth and I remembered that I never liked Maura Tierney or Rob Morrow… Maura is rather wooden, and seems incapable of emotion. Morrow does a great job of whining and standing around with his teeny mouth hanging open. Nothing good there.

Links: Official website, imdb, tv.com

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  1. Did you ever watch “Murder One”? That had a similar premise, and the first season in particular was very good because it dealt entirely with one case, so they spent time on things like jury selection.

    Regarding: “you need to tell me the truth, even if you did it, it’s my job to get you off anyway”, I’m not sure whether that would happen. It may be different in US law, but an English lawyer told me that if his client was guilty then he wouldn’t want to know about it. Basically, he’s not allowed to lie in court, so he can’t suggest explanations which he knows aren’t true. If the client pleads “not guilty”, he can say “fair enough, I’ll take your word for it”, then attack the witnesses.

  1. September 3rd, 2011
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