Notorious is the most ABC-like project I’ve read this year so far. Totally what they used us to those past few years. Good news: it’s not CBS or NBC wanting to be ABC but ABC doing what they know how to do best. It’s right where it belongs. Bad news: it’s almost a cliché of a Shondaland show, not produced by Shondaland. It may miss what makes Shonda Rhimes’ shows so special and ultimately successful. But it’s not bad. Not bad at all. As long as you do like soaps. And it’s the promise of something that can run for years, highly serialized but with new scandalous cases every week. Is it what ABC’s new bosses are looking for? Is it the missing piece that could help the TGIT thrives again in the ratings? Is it a show worth fighting for? So many questions. I do think ABC has to give it a chance anyway.
First things first: like Scandal, which was inspired by a real-life crisis expert, Notorious is based on the relationship between famed criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos –who defended Michael Jackson, Winona Ryder or Chris Brown, among others, and who also represents Kesha in her lawsuit against Dr Luke– and long-time Larry King Live executive producer Wendy Walker, both co-produce. So we are led to believe that there is truth in the way those two act and in the stories they are telling us. Which is not easy. There’s something that doesn’t feel real, or at least that is highly exaggerated. It’s TV. We are not naive. We know they need to spice things up a little bit. Reality is often boring and doesn’t make entertaining television. But still. We need to believe in what we’re watching, so we can connect with the characters. And it’s hard for now. It may take time. But they probably won’t have that much time to convince so…
You know what I like about Julia & Jack? They’re cynical. So cynical. It’s refreshing. Not that this is that provocative or anything. We’ve seen UnREAL (if you haven’t, you should!). There’s a lot of Quinn King in Julia when she is working behind-the-scenes of the Louise Herrick Live show. She’s manipulative. Those scenes are definitely exciting and sometimes jaw-dropping. They reminded me of The Newsroom too. But I won’t compare both shows. That would be an insult to Aaron Sorkin. Regarding the atmosphere, the cases that are tackled, the rhythm, we’re totally in Scandal territory. Julia’s fiancée is a recently appointed Federal Judge, who has been cheating on her with high priced escorts. We’re not that far from politics. We’ll come to it at some point. They could even do crossovers if it was produced by Shonda Rhimes. That would fit perfectly. Olivia Pope helping Jake, who is in love with a client’s wife who may be a murderer… And when you think Scandal, you’re one step away from How To Get Away With Murder. The legal part of the show, especially Jack’s and his brother’s firm, works the same way as the Viola Davis show. Same kind of stories and one character, Ella, Jake’s protégée, an ambitious and not that naive young lawyer, could easily be one of the “Keating Five”.
But what makes this show different? Not that much and that’s the whole problem in my opinion. “The unique, sexy, and dangerous interplay of criminal law and the media” is how the show is sold. In Scandal & HTGAWM, the media is part of the story without being explored thoroughfully. Notorious is complementary in that way, but I’m not sure the audience will want another show in the same vein, especially when the others are still on the air, alive and quite well. Plus, Notorious doesn’t offer in this pilot that many efficient cliffhangers and OMG moments. Or it’s just that we are so prepared and used to this type of storytelling that nothing can surprise us anymore. Anyway, if writers Josh Berman and Allie Hagan were on a mission to create a Shondaland-like show, they succeeded. But if they were supposed to add their own touch and find a new angle, they kinda failed, with dignity though.
Notorious possesses a sexy, crazy attractive cast, especially with those mouth-watering actors. The script is a little bit more than okay. The options for the future of the show are countless. There is a ton of potential. It shouldn’t be hard to sell. But it’s so ABC, so Shondaland, that it’s predictable most of the time and it doesn’t offer anything new. I’d say it would be a good companion for Scandal when the third season of How To Get Away With Murder will end. But that’s only if they keep the TGIT intact next year. And it’s not a done deal yet.