A Review of ABC’s Notorious

Back when first looked at the new shows of the Fall Season, one show was called Notorious.

I immediately figured it would not be as interesting as the Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name.

I mean, after all, one of the actors is is Pipe Perabo, woman who made a CIA television show into a boring soap opera.

Throw into that a lot of “games that slimy lawyers play.” I mean, if I wanted that, I’d listen to Ron Kuby on the radios every day.

The official description of the show is

“Notorious” is inspired by the true-life stories of famed criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos and cable news producer Wendy Walker, who serve as executive producers. The series is a provocative look at the unique, sexy and dangerous interplay of criminal law and the media

At which point, the obvious reply is

1) Geragos never looked that good.

2) I figure this is going to be Mark Geragos rewriting history so he doesn’t look like a total loser who only defends guilty clients.

The next major warning sign is that this show is in the Scandal‘s timeslot, sandwiched between two other Shonda Rhimes shows — Grey’s Anatomy and How to get Away with Murder. In short, these and other shows for the morally bankrupt.

I concluded that that it must be about morally slimy people doing reprehensible things for incoherent and / or repugnant reasons. Like every other show near a Rhimes production.

Thus far, I’m wrong.

Yes, I’m wrong. This hasn’t played out how I thought it would. The lawyer and the producer (Daniel Sunjata and Piper Perabo) are just friends. They’re not sleeping together, they’ve apparently never slept together, and they hang out in bars playing darts or pool.

Then there’s the face of the news show, a Nancy Grace knockoff, played by Kate Jennings Grant, who sleeps around with any young handsome guy.  But no, not even she’s as shallow as you’d expect. By the end of episode 3, her sleeping around is actually based in some fairly serious trauma, and she’s self medicated with excessive partying.

I’m actually surprised.

There are, of course, signs you know that this is fiction. They’re a lawyer and a reporter, with some principles. Is that actually allowed?

There are, of course, underhanded lawyer tricks. He’s not above tampering the jury pool with a well placed sound bite, or having his client (a thinly veiled Scott Peterson) arrested at his dead wife’s funeral to both garner sympathy and to make sure the client stops his drinking binge. On the other hand, this lawyer seems to not only care that his client is innocent, but generally believes in his innocence.

There are plenty of bits of business scattered throughout that threaten to make this a soap opera. The lawyer not only had a prior relationship with the client’s wife, but sleeps with her two nights before she’s murdered. You’d think this would be a continuing sign of his generally amoral character, but no, it’s a mistake. He makes it once, and shows no sign of jumping into bed with anyone else. It’s almost like someone decided that, “Yes, real people screw up, and they try to do better.” You’d almost think they were Catholic.

Among the cast includes a new office intern who seems genuinely and sincerely interested in advancing in his job. He’s charismatic, crafty, and quick witted. There are times I fully expect him to be the killer. Because, you know, being interesting, sincere and hardworking must be the sign of a disturbed mind, right?

Every time I expect the show to turn into a Shondian nightmare, it surprises me. There’s plenty of cynicism (statements from the studio owner include: “The public will believe whatever we tell them”), but it’s strange when a reporter on a TV show actually emphasizes the need to VERIFY EVIDENCE. Episode 3 had a video recording of a rape of an unconscious woman; the first thing she does is demand a video expert to verify it hasn’t been edited, and gets a neurologist to verify the woman is actually out cold. It’s almost like someone did their homework of what an actual reporter should be doing.

Truthfully, I’m bracing myself for the moment where this show will, soon enough, betray me and turn into a soap opera about reprehensible people. But, for right now, I’ll give it four stars, a pat on the head, and tell them not to disappoint me.


Anyway, you might want to check out my novel Sad Puppies Bite Back.  I promise, it’s funny.

About Declan Finn

Declan Finn is the author of Honor at Stake, an urban fantasy novel, nominated for Best Horror in the first annual Dragon Awards. He has also written The Pius Trilogy, an attempt to take Dan Brown to the woodshed in his own medium -- soon to be republished by Silver Empire Press. Finn has also written "Codename: Winterborn," an SF espionage thriller, and it's follow-up, "Codename: Winterborn." And "It was Only on Stun!" and "Set To Kill" are murder mysteries at a science fiction convention.
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