Should You Investigate Notorious?
Will ABC's new legal thriller go down in history? Or will it just BE history?
What Is This Thing?
Based on longtime Larry King Live producer Wendy Walker and celebrity defense attorney Mark Geragos, Piper Perabo and Daniel Sunjata star as Julia George and Jake Gregorian, a news producer and a high-profile defense attorney who share a symbiotic relationship.
When Is It On?
Thursdays at 9 PM ET on ABC.
Why Was It Made Now?
With Scandal delayed due to Kerry Washington's pregnancy and Shondaland's upcoming take on Romeo And Juliet, Still Star-Crossed, not premiering until 2017 either, something had to fill the time slot. ABC presumably perused the stack of pilot scripts marked "sexy legal drama" and picked the one based on people they probably run into at the gym sometimes.
What's Its Pedigree?
Notorious comes from Josh Berman, of CSI and Bones, and is the first screen credit for Allie Hagan, the blogger behind Suri's Burn Book. And if this leads to a storyline about a bitter celebrity child running a media empire based on her own ruthless seven-year-old take on industry gossip, SIGN ME UP.
For something that shares DNA with CSI and Bones, this is a certain type of upgrade -- that is, it won't beat either of those shows in terms of joy or commercial success, necessarily, but if it does well and hangs with the Shondaland lineup, it could give both Berman and Hagan a boost in grown-up cred. Or maybe fake gravitas? It's less interesting than the best Shondaland shows, but it's competent and certainly less inane than the worst of them. (I say this as possibly the only living expert on The Catch.)
The pilot is mostly plot, but it's not a bad plot: a hit-and-run by Jake's tech-dude client turns into a thrillery storyline that looks like it'll become a season arc. The episode moves along, sets up a lot of dominoes for later, and mostly doesn't over-explain. Maybe more importantly, it establishes that Piper Perabo and Daniel Sunjata have recognizable chemistry that could grow into something exciting. Obviously, nobody (especially nobody tuning in to the Scandal time slot) cares that much about the wheeling and dealing of a news-show producer and a celebrity lawyer, so it's important that the show deliver on its promise to sweeten the deal with sexy people being sexy at each other. There's a grown-up vibe to them that I'm sure ABC appreciates, and probably lots of other people will, too.
In the tradition of other middling procedurals, there's also a big supporting cast, allowing for lots of permutations and some wacky hijinks the main characters can't get away with, if the writers so choose. Kate Jennings Grant is already having an amazing time playing the blowsy, horny news-show host Louise Herrick.
Additionally, Aimee Teegarden begins her post-Julie Taylor rehabilitation under cover of dark hair, a lawyerly suit, and an unwillingness to be flirted with while reading that is almost a young misandrist's dream. (She gives in eventually, but then, this is only the pilot. There's room here for personal growth.)
Remember how I said it's mostly plot?
It's not really a procedural's first priority to establish deep character in the pilot, and this one really, really doesn't. I get that I'm supposed to be rooting, at the very least, for Julia and Jake to get it on, and probably more broadly for Julia and Jake in general (though of course this will be a zero-sum game if and when their goals are in conflict); at this point, we've established the first part and almost nothing else. Julia and Jake could be anybody, or attractive mops with wigs glued to their handles, for all we know and care about them as specific humans with specific backgrounds and emotional states. I give this a 58% chance of changing; it might just be baked in.
Is this procedural blandness made worse by Perabo and Sunjata? Maybe; they're both attractive, and yet neither is particularly memorable. To be fair, I'm happy to go on record as a person who doesn't totally get Perabo; I know plenty of people like her, but to me, she's never interesting. I'm also new to Sunjata and have noted his handsomeness, but will need to see more. Together, I think they work pretty well; whether they can each make their own character and story work stick remains to be seen.
Also: if you weren't sure what role the media plays in guiding public focus and opinion, Notorious will fill you in! Remember, Producer Megan (Sepideh Moafi) tells us, we care not only because of the sexy people, but also because Julia decides what makes the news and what the public hears from guests on the show. Somewhere, Aaron Sorkin's ears are burning, the way they always do when someone's mis-impersonating him.
Here are the circumstances under which Notorious might be for you: if you're looking for something to fill the Shondaland-shaped hole in your heart and don't mind the lack of Shonda herself. If you're looking for a fast-paced, grown-up mystery show with a hint of blandness. If you like high-powered, good-looking people flirting in elevators, or if you've been waiting for Perabo to return after Covert Affairs. Don't fit into any of those categories? Wait for the return of Scandal and go back to rooting for nobody to get laid.