Hit or Sh**: ABC’s CONVICTION

In this Crossfader series, our intricate and complex rating system will tell you definitively whether new television pilots are worth your valuable time. We call it: HIT OR SH**.

conviction different

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CONVICTION missed its mark so completely that it’s hard to tell where it was aiming. Since we’ve had basically every type of lawyer and trial show done many times over, CONVICTION needed to bring something new to the game to carve a niche for itself in the jaded TV viewership. Instead of throwing caution to the wind and doing something new and flamboyant, CONVICTION stuck in as many clichés as it could fit in 48 minutes. It didn’t help that the premise itself was an obstacle to overcome.

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Plus the obstacle of the generic name

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Hayes Morrison (played by Hayley Atwell) is a genius lawyer who graduated at the top of her class from Harvard, but is also infamous as a former scandalous wild child and first daughter. At the beginning of the pilot, Hayes (top marks for the bougie name) is blackmailed by D.A. Wallace into heading up his “Conviction Integrity Unit,” meaning that she will be leading a team of investigators who look into cases of convicted criminals who claim they are innocent. However, unlike the Innocence Project, they are not committed to proving innocence; they are committed to proving the truth, whether innocent or guilty. This premise has the potential to be somewhat interesting, but Hayes’s formless character deflates the importance of the work her unit is doing, and therefore we don’t find it important either.

Here’s the rub: Hayes doesn’t care. Hayes is heading this unit against her will, and as she says to the team, “think of her as a figurehead.” Since Hayes doesn’t care about what her team is doing, it falls to her underlings to spur her into motion and leadership. But there’s just one problem: One of the team, Sam, played by Shawn Ashmore (you may know him as the X-pain-in-the-ass this side of Wolverine, Iceman), is uniquely qualified to take over, seeing as he had her job before Wallace installed Hayes instead. So why should the team care if she doesn’t participate? Why do they need her? The pilot never shows why her unique brand or technique is necessary to the work.

conviction annoyance

Bet you still feel that jolt of annoyance when you see this face

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It is a true shame, since it is so refreshing to see a woman who is effortlessly superintelligent and uncaring about responsibility. We see so many genius-level male characters at the center of a story that it’s jarring (to some) to imagine a woman in the same position, nevermind a woman whose confidence matches her intelligence.

The filmmakers attempt to smooth over the rough patches in their storytelling with music, resulting in a nearly wall-to-wall score. These rough patches include tone and style disparities, as well as sudden unexplained shifts in the emotions of the characters, sometimes even within a single scene. Several times it seemed as if one scene, played by the actors a few different ways, had been cut together to come out a Frankenstein’s monster of emotion, with no logical progression between any of the emotions they’re portraying. The actors should not be blamed, however, as it’s clear they’re acting their hearts out. The script is just not a satisfactory vehicle for their performances.

CONVICTION is a re-hashing of all your favorite law-centered shows with a sprinkle of an original idea. It could have been the TV version of the “Serial” podcast, but CONVICTION fails to strike out in any sort of interesting direction, including that one. If you’re looking for a court drama, your time would be better spent watching LAW & ORDER reruns.

Verdict: Sh**

CONVICTION airs on Mondays on ABC

Nicole Barraza Keim

Nicole Barraza Keim is a graduate of USC's School of Cinematic Arts and fervent Trekkie. Her passion is promoting positive change in media by creating content about all types of women kicking ass! To keep up with Nicole’s reviews, follow her on Letterboxd at the link above.

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