“The Adversaries” (ABC) pilot preview: The Good Father, The Good Daughter & The Not So Good Wife

Lost, Terry O Quinn as John Locke

Written and produced by David Zabel (ER, Detroit 187, Betrayal, Lucky 7). Co-produced by Tommy Burns (Harry’s Law, The Crazy Ones, ER). Directed by Stephen Cragg (ER, Nashville, Grey’s Anatomy). For ABC & ABC Studios. 53 pages.

Description: For the past few decades, the Hayward family has been as close to a New York City legal dynasty as it gets. This dynasty is put in turmoil when the patriarch, Charlie, is indicted on federal charges and the daughter, Jaime, a star prosecutor, finds herself in a difficult position, stuck between the family she loves and the office she works for. She must decide which side she will fight on…

With Terry O’Quinn (Lost, Alias, 666 Park Avenue, Gang Related, The Stepfather), Kristen Hager (Being Human US, Beach Girls), Christine Lahti (Chicago Hope, Hawaii 5-0, Jack & Bobby), Lenny Platt (How to Get Away With Murder), Christine Evangelista (Kill Point, Chicago Fire, Detroit 187), Enuka Okuma (Rookie Blue, Sue Thomas F.B. Eye)…

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When we thought we have seen it all in the legal drama genre with the Law & Order franchise and David E. Kelley hit shows Ally McBeal, The Practice & Boston Legal, Damages came out of nowhere and proved us wrong. Then arrived the incredible The Good Wife. And six seasons later, we’re still amazed by the show. How can a new legal drama survive in nowadays’ TV landscape, when Law & OrderThe Practice and The Good Wife set the bar that high? I have no idea, and the networks either. SuitsFranklin & Bash and a few others are just less interesting iterations of what we have already seen. They’re watchable, enjoyable, but not much more. Even E. Kelley himself is struggling (Harry’s Law). The Adversaries is exactly that: not something new, not something bad, not something we’d be willing to really give a chance. And it’s sad. But one day, the next great legal drama will come our way.

The Adversaries is trying to distinguish itself through the family drama perspective, but even that has already been made and it doesn’t make that much of a difference in the end. Yeah, they’re all lawyers in the family, but so what? Page 45, there’s this line: “We have an empathy deficit“. It’s the daughter analyzing why the jury probably won’t side for her father in court. And it’s exactly why the audience won’t like the show either: there’s an empathy deficit for the whole family! They’re rich, they live in beautiful apartments in New York and, wait for it… they’re good people at the same time! They are too good to be true. It would have been very much easier to hate/love them if they were bad people doing very bad thing things. Not all of them, but some of them. But no. It’s the good father, with the good daughters, the good employees and there’s just the mother that may be not that good but she is just keeping a big secret from them and the reason why is probably… to protect them. I don’t think it’s what people are looking for on TV right now.

While reading the pitch, if you thought -like me- the show was about the daughter moving heaven and earth to help her father going out of jail for an entire season, maybe more, then you were wrong. It’s what she does during the whole pilot -plus flirting with another female lawyer, ‘cos she’s a lesbian and that’s great for a female lead!- but she succeeds in the end and she refuses to join her father’s firm. So, the next episodes will consist mostly of the father and the daughter fighting in court against each other. It could quickly become quite boring, redundant, and I fear the family secrets (a mysterious dead son) and the romantic storylines won’t be enough to keep us interested for the long haul, even if Terry O’Quinn & Christine Lahti are great actors that certainly have a great chemistry on screen. They have very funny lines, and in general, the dialogues are really good. There’s a cheesy love song about family right in the middle of the pilot, because the other daughter is a law student and also an artist, and it feels totally out of place.

I really don’t see ABC ordering The Adversaries to series. It will skew old and it doesn’t really fit with the schedule. It’s efficient and pleasant but a little outdated. ABC has bigger fishes to fry than giving it a try. 

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