Raising the Bar Season Premiere on TNT
by Laura Tucker
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I’m glad I was able to sample two episodes of the new TNT series Raising the Bar. After that first episode, I wasn’t too sure. Created by Steven Bochco, the guy behind NYPD Blue, L.A. Law, and Hill Street Blues, I certainly expected more.
Raising the Bar revolves around the cases and relationships within a law office, reminding me very much of L.A. Law. Also reminding me of L.A. Law is the character of Michelle (Melissa Sagemiller) who looks surprisingly like Susan Dey. The second season starts with an episode called “Hair Apparent” that had a way too obvious plot device. It starts with the office coworkers of Jerry (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) roasting him in a video about his long hair with jokes like, “The 80s called. They want their hairstyle back.”
While Gosselaar was sporting a longer hairstyle last season, in this episode it just didn’t look real. In fact, I wasn’t sure who he was at first, and instead of connecting him with Zach of Saved By the Bell, I was thinking it was the same actor who played David Cassidy in the story of his life, wearing a fake wig. Once Jerry was told by a prospective juror that he looked like a hippy and that he didn’t trust him, it was way too obvious where this episode was moving to. I like the balance of humor and drama in my hour long courtroom shows, but this episode just became hard to take seriously, and I was missing the hard-edged business side that we’re used to.
I then got a chance to see another episode, “The Curious Case of Kellerman’s Button”, and it had all that I had hoped tosee from Bochco and more. It had some comedy with the case of that button, along with some heavy drama in the form a court case that was being decided between a hate crime or a hate crime, a gay man vs. three black men. It’s the type of thing we’re used to form L.A. Law or NYPD Blue, some drama that really forces you to think and decide where you side in the matter, whether you agree with the final decision or not.
Gosselaar and Sagemiller are joined in the cast by TV veterans Gloria Reuben of ER and Jane Kaczmarek from Malcolm In the Middle. Reuben plays Roz, a hard-as-nails lawyer who seems used to getting her way and puts fear in those opposing her. Kaczmarek plays Judge Trudy Kessler, but I think it would be funny for her to play Judge Judy. She’s a well-respected judge that doesn’t take crap.
Despite having sitcom actors Gosselaar and Kaczamarek as leads on the show, I think the writers need to remember that it’s a courtroom drama and not to fall too much into the silliness and obvious, such as with the business of Jerry’s hair. If they just dwell on that a little and concentrate the seriousness and topical nature of the cases, I think it’ll succeed. I assume there’s fear of making the show a carbon copy of L.A. Law, but with different characters and lead actors, I think it can still be a little more serious and stay respectful, and be quite successful.
The second season of Raising the Bar premieres on TNT at 10 PM EST/9 PM CST on Monday, June 8.
Laura Tucker is a freelance writer providing reviews of movies and television, among other things, at Viewpoints and Reality Shack, and operates a TV blog, What’s Hot On TV. She is also an Associate Instructor and 1st dan black belt in tae kwon do with South Elgin Martial Arts.
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