There’s been a television void to be filled since the cancellation of “Law & Order” was announced over the summer. Admittedly, the series had a reputation of being boring, exciting only pre-law students and your parents. Each episode was a well known story of a righteous legal team weaving through bureaucracy to bring real justice to their poor clients. Maybe this is a void that shouldn’t be filled at all.
“The Whole Truth”
Wednesdays at 10 p.m.
However, ABC’s new drama “The Whole Truth” takes the “Law & Order” formula and makes it look like child’s play. This new show understands that even while in opposition, both sides can work with compassion toward finding justice. Even bad guys have humanity and sometimes the likeable guy loses. “The Whole Truth” presents the same case from the sides of both the defense and prosecution with an impressive objectivity that stirs sympathy for all.
Laid-back defense attorney Jimmy Brogan (Rob Morrow, “Numb3rs”) and high-strung prosecutor Kathryn Pearle (Maura Tierney, “ER”) were strong friends and even stronger competitors in law school. Now the two find themselves opposed in court. Their undeniable respect for each other juxtaposed with their driving desire to win the case is an unexplored dynamic in legal shows. Throughout the pilot, they call each other to brag about their new evidence, and after the sentencing they meet up for drinks and a heartfelt moment. Perhaps romance will develop in later episodes or seasons, but for now, it’s a pure, unspoiled professional friendship.
The narrative straddles the two sides of the case in a way that exposes the inner workings of the law firm and the defense attorney office. The writing is done with such skill that it’s truly unclear whether the defendant is guilty. The defense’s witness reveals information that helps the prosecution and the prosecution’s witness does the same for the defense. Enough substantial evidence is produced for both sides, and just when you think you figured it out, another clue throws you off. Rather than frustrating, it’s an enjoyable challenge, and the series promises to always reveal the true wrong-doer before the credits roll. “The Whole Truth” keeps you guessing until the very end in the most wonderful of ways.
The writing is surprisingly fresh for a procedural. Cheesy one-liners about justice are substituted with snarky, realistic dialogue. “Don’t say, ‘Roger that,’ ” an annoyed Pearle says as she scolds her assistant district attorney. Perhaps she’s just as sick of corny catchphrases as we are.
Still, “The Whole Truth” isn’t without its jarring annoyances. Just as “Law & Order” had the iconic “dun dun” at every scene transition (as though the change wouldn’t be clear without it), “The Whole Truth” patronizingly informs what side it’s showing by zooming in on the lawyer in slow-mo, transitioning to black and white and using all-caps subtitles of “the defense” or “the prosecution.” Every time this device is used, the show stoops to the level of its predecessors. But no procedural is perfect, and there are many worse things “The Whole Truth” could have been guilty of.
If you’ve been searching for another “Law & Order,” give “The Whole Truth” a try, and even if you aren’t a law student or a parent, you might enjoy a legitimately realistic take on the courtroom drama.