For four years, Scott Foley played charming doofus Noel Crane on the WB’s critically adored college drama “Felicity.” He brought that same nebbish charisma to NBC’s “Scrubs” last year in a two-episode guest stint. With “A.U.S.A,” NBC’s new legal comedy, Foley makes it three-for-three in the charm department. Unfortunately, he didn’t bring along any of the other qualities that make those other two shows so compelling.
After first hearing about “A.U.S.A.”, it seemed to have the potential to capture the quirky essence of “Scrubs” and its inventive take on a tired genre. What “Scrubs” did to the medical genre – givinng a face of humanity to those intense doctors – “A.U.S.A.” could have done for lawyers, if that’s at all possible. Instead, it comes off as another stiff and contrived sitcom leaving Foley no room to shine.
In tonight’s pilot episode, we meet Foley’s Adam Sullivan, a promising young assistant U.S. attorney (hence, the title). It’s his first day on the job as a federal prosecutor, and it’s going to be a long one. After an accident at the firing range (evidently that’s a requirement for new prosecutors), Sullivan works duly hard trying to impress his unappeasable boss (Peter Jacobson) and Susan, the public defender he’s up against (Amanda Detmer), who also happens to be his former college crush. He comes across one misfortune after another, including a sexually-charged encounter with a bathroom hand-dryer and an accidental case of jury-tampering. But while these circumstances could be utilized to opportune comedic effect, “A.U.S.A.” doesn’t take advantage of the situations.
None of the supporting characters do much to help take the pressure off of Foley, (Eddie McClintock) Sullivan’s easygoing roommate, is downright infuriating. The one exception is John Ross Bowie as the incompetent paralegal Wally, who grows a liking to Sullivan. If not for him, Foley would be completely hung out to dry. Although the dimwitted lackey character is hardly an original move, Bowie’s mindless devotion comes off as refreshing in this otherwise mechanical contraption.
It’s as if network executives just took the old sitcom formula, changed the variables and plugged it into the machine. Unless “A.U.S.A.” makes some considerable changes soon, look for this midseason replacement’s tenure to be a short one.