Hit or Sh**: NBC’s CHICAGO JUSTICE
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**.
Is the suspect in custody really the arsonist responsible for the deaths of 39 kids, and if so, how can our protagonist, Peter Stone, prove it? The pilot episode of CHICAGO JUSTICE attempts to answer this very question, and thanks to a fantastic and dedicated lawyer, does so to great success. However, CHICAGO JUSTICE itself is a bland, middle of the road type of show—it’s not necessarily a bad story or poorly produced, but it also brings absolutely nothing new to the realm of law procedurals. Sure, it’s set in a state attorney’s office, but this minute differentiator makes little difference in the construction and layout of the show—we still spend most of the episode in either a law office or courtroom, and the case is nothing you couldn’t find anywhere else.
This series is the fourth by Dick Wolf in his series of Chicago-related television shows (including CHICAGO FIRE, CHICAGO MED, and CHICAGO P.D.) Also, the events of this first episode, “Fake,” are continued from a storyline in one of the other aforementioned shows. The show itself gives little indication of these facts, however, and in many ways assumes that the viewer has some familiarity with the rest of the Wolf family. The previous events of the case (assumedly excerpts from Wolf’s previous endeavors) are detailed in a silly and unexplained opening montage.
Imagine my confusion at watching a “Here’s What You Missed” montage for a TV show’s pilot
Sure, yes, it’s more of a spin-off show than the typical stand-alone show, but I still don’t think this excuses the ridiculousness of this montage or an assumed familiarity with plot, setting, or characters. Any television episode has a responsibility to familiarize its viewers with the elements of the story and then take off from there, and CHICAGO JUSTICE failsat this.
On a similar note, I would consider giving CHICAGO JUSTICE a pass for its underdeveloped characters, being that it is in some ways a continuation of a previously established story. However, any show (no matter the established circumstances) must hook viewers and establish character as soon as possible, instead of relying on some past success. Without this strong and immediate connection to characters, it’s very difficult to stay interested in a story or to find any reason to continue watching. The characters are very loosely introduced and hardly memorable whatsoever; in fact, I’m not even sure we ever learned over half of their names. There’s actually nothing wrong with the characters themselves, it’s just that they have little opportunity for introduction and development in the action-packed and plot-driven pilot episode. They’re all relatively charming and likable, and in fact well-portrayed by confident actors, but I still feel as though I’m missing out on their cheesy character introductions. Peter Stone is our protagonist, a “good guy” lawyer, Albert Forest is the clever and conniving opposition, and Dylan Oates is the creepy, questionable suspect. In the pilot episode, we get to know these three pretty well, and there’s several scenes of them interacting. But I was surprised to learn that only Stone is a recurring character. Besides Stone, very little is known about the other returning players, and even then nothing is teased or hinted at for future reveals.
Where’s the typical, “Hi, I’m a damaged man because my wife left me and I don’t like to talk about my feelings” introduction that we deserve?
Despite all of this, the first episode does have an enticing enough plot and I felt intrigued following along through the twists, turns, and mind games played by the two opposing lawyers. Sure, everything may not be very original or exceptionally inspired, but I was entertained enough to continue watching and the show held my interest for its complete duration. However, at the end of the day, I know that I’d be super unlikely to ever tune in again. If you’re a Dick Wolf completionist you’ll like this, but if you didn’t start from the beginning there’s no reason to start now.
CHICAGO JUSTICE airs on Sundays on NBC