Monday, September 23, 2019

REVIEW: 'Bluff City Law' - Sydney Rejoins Her Father's Law Firm and Immediately Works on a Complicated Case in 'Pilot'

NBC's Bluff City Law - Episode 1.01 "Pilot"

In the aftermath of her family tragedy, top corporate attorney Sydney Strait decides to put aside years of personal conflict with her father Elijah to rejoin his legendary civil rights firm and take on a chemical company whose product may cause cancer. No sooner is Sydney back, when she stumbles on a secret Elijah has been keeping from her that may change everything.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of NBC's Bluff City Law.

"Pilot" was written by Dean Georgaris and directed by Jessica Yu

The criminal justice system can be a transformational aspect of our society when it functions properly. There is always the hope that the system will work and respect the efforts done by those who live in this world fighting for justice. And yet, that fight simply can't be seen solely as being as boisterous as possible in the hopes of proving a point. That's very much how Sydney Strait comes across in this premiere. She really only has that one-note in her life. Yes, it's understanding that she is dealing with some pent up rage do to the recent death of her mother. But the show also uses that as a crutch in order to set all of the drama into motion. It doesn't even go through the motions of telling the audience how Sydney's mother has died. It's just important that she's dead. That allows Sydney and her father, Elijah, to reunite. They feel inspired to work together again at his famous legal aid clinic that fights with so much passionate for the most meaningful civil rights cases throughout the country. He is a household name. When people hear that Elijah Strait is interested in their case, their ears perk up with excitement. It may mean that there is a reason to be optimistic about the future. He is portrayed as this hero. In actuality though, Elijah presents as a terrible human being who simply wants his daughter around because he feels lost without his wife by his side guiding him on the right path. All of the characters talk about Caroline as this almost mystic figure who understand exactly what everyone needed to do in order to make their way in the world. That obviously didn't always work because Sydney was off working for a big corporate law firm at the start of the series. She was the one crushing the hopes and dreams of people wanting big companies to pay for their toxic products. In quick succession, she goes to the other side and begins fighting passionately for those clients alongside her father. She presents as someone with good ideas but a bold attitude who sees her way as the only way. That may simply be the way that she was conditioned. She had to be bold in every action because she was seeking the attention of her father, who again is notable throughout the entire legal profession. She had to follow in his shadow. She also did so knowing that he is an imperfect man who has done a great deal of harm to those in his family. It didn't matter how much he loved Caroline. He cheated on her numerous times. The episode concludes with the revelation that paralegal Emerson also happens to be his son. Sydney is completely blindsided about that. She didn't need to be. At no point in trying to woo her to his firm did Elijah think to let her know about the existence of her half-brother. Instead, he just allowed it to be a secret even though everyone else at the firm treats it as commonplace. Sydney's emotions are the ones going on a roller coaster here - at times rightfully so. She deserves to be outraged at that final decision. But the way she conducts herself in the central case really isn't all that impressive. In fact, it mostly seems like the show trying to be as dramatic as possible. It is simply too forced without any of the true gravitas that it actually means something. It's maudlin in a way simply because it tells stories the audience should care about without truly putting in the requisite work to showcase this as an exciting world full of characters who understand all of the ups and downs of the legal profession. They are allowed to fail and be human. But the pompous attitudes really make it off-putting despite the victory Sydney and Elijah get in court. Meanwhile, the subplot with Jake is completely boring. It doesn't matter if it is going to be an ongoing concern for the season. There is absolutely no reason given upfront as to why anyone should care. A series premiere shouldn't be the episode in which the audience feels like the creative team is simply giving some of the supporting players something to do for the hour. That's a bad look right off the bat.