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Review: Injustice by any other name

I just saw the television pilot for "In Justice" or "inJustice" or somesuch spacing and capitalization few hours ago. (As you can see below, neither of these names really makes sense as a title for this series. Maybe "Injustice" would, but even that seems pretty weak. Regardless, you would think that ABC would at least consistently spell the name of their new series in their literature.)

The premise of the show struck me offhand as an odd one for a legal drama. According to the ABC description

[The] National Justice Project is an agency that focuses on cases where justice has not been served and innocent people have been wrongly convicted of crimes they did not commit.
They take on a new case each week. Why isn't this a documentary featuring a real-life equivalent organization such as the Innocence Project at Cardozo? Also, doesn't this kind of show give a negative view of the American justice system, something mainstream television never does?…

After watching the show, I think I have a better understanding. The parameters that NJP operates under are set out early in the pilot: no death penalty cases, no cases involving "bad people" defendants, etc. Further, the case solved in the pilot is a classic case of circumstances so extremely unusual that any competent law-enforcement agency would have convicted. The NJP's amazing persistence and cleverness do eventually result in an overturned conviction, but this just goes to show that the justice system works (albeit slowly and in mysterious ways).

All of which sounds like I didn't enjoy the show---I actually thought it was above-average fare in this genre, featuring:

Decent acting: Each actor showed a range of emotions and activities while maintaining a coherent character.

Decent science: One of the most refreshing moments in the pilot was an audio "expert" explaining that she couldn't magically enhance a piece of recorded audio to bring out background noises. Of course, her explanation made no sense---ironically, this is one of the few times when it should have been possible with just a simple notch filter---and the eventual recognition of those background sounds proved a key element in the case. But still, A for effort. At no point that I saw was the case advanced by painful pseudoscience substituting for detective work.

Decent portrayal of lawyers: Sure, everyone's unrealistically young and attractive and there are unrealistically many females. But it is nice to see lawyers who have personality types other than "Perry Mason" and "semi-competent jerk". There was maybe more eccentricity in the senior role (Kyle MacLachlan) than I would have liked, but that's OK.

So what's not to like? Several things:

"Encyclopedia Brown Syndrome": Note to TV mystery authors—I don't think "fair-play clues" means what you think it means. The solution to this one hinges on some pretty contrived and obscure clues; I would have much rather had less of an "aha moment".

Everyone's incompetent but our heroes: The police fail to run a simple ballistics test on the handgun used in the murder---the NJP finally coerces them into it. The detectives originally hired (for "$80,000") to investigate the defendant's alibi fail to discover a simple fact about it that an NJP lawyer spots in 15 minutes at the alibi scene. The star witness is examined properly only by the NJP lawyers. On and on it goes.

Soap opera moments. I don't need wacky emotional side-plots in my crime dramas. Just make professionals act like professionals on the job---is that too much to ask?

In Justice looks like a promising new show. It won't go to the top of my TiVo list yet, but I'll definitely check out a few more episodes. Fob