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Jon Stewart, the 78th Annual Academy Awards
I've had many obsessions in my life — love, shiny jewelry, chocolate — but none as devastating as Law & Order. My addiction to Dick Wolf's franchise (save for the deservedly short-lived Trial by Jury) has distracted me from finishing freelance assignments, deprived me of adequate sleep and even chased away a boyfriend or two. That said, Wolf's new series Conviction — which technically isn't part of the L&O family, even though it stars Special Victims Unit's cast-off Stephanie March, aka Alexandra Cabot, who was last seen faking her own death and entering the Witness Protection program — ain't gonna keep me up at night. With this tepid soap opera about a group of overworked/oversexed ADAs, Wolf has departed from his trial-and-true formula, which would be fine if it weren’t so damn derivative of everything else on TV. There are seven main dwarves... I mean characters: Jordan Bridges as Nick Potter (newbie); Eric Balfour as Brian Peluso (sleazy); Milena Govich as Jessica Rossi (steamy); Anson Mount as Jim Steele (sexy); Julianne Nicholson as Christina Finn (stupid); the aforementioned Cabot (steely); and J. August Richards as Billy Desmond (token black guy).
Why any producer would cast serial series killer Balfour (Hawaii, Sex, Love & Secrets, Veritas: The Quest) is beyond me (and I swear, if he doesn't take care of whatever that mold is growing on his face, I'm going to call the EPA). But Conviction's weakness has little to do with him or any of its poor players. (Can't Jordan’s dad, Beau Bridges, hook up his son with a better gig?) Unlike L&O, this show is character-driven — but that only works when the characters are interesting and believable. This bevy of vapid young hotties would be more at home on a beach somewhere instead of toiling away fully clothed in the DA's office. Of course, plenty of screen time is devoted to their bed-hopping antics. And with names like Jim Steele, you might mistake Conviction for a soft-core Skinemax special.
There are some cool touches, like Elias Koteas as a zealous prosecutor. I was hoping he'd stick around long enough to show up opposite his doppelgänger, Christopher Meloni, on SVU. No such luck though, as he's killed off pretty promptly. Fred Dalton Thompson also makes a quick cameo (I hope he got a bonus... or at least a romp with one of the ladies), and then there are all those L&O usual suspects: Joe Grifasi and Peter McRobbie as judges and David Zayas as a criminal, but, oddly, the ubiquitous Richard Belzer was MIA. (I would have loved to hear Munch school these kids on the perils of love.)
The most memorable thing about this pilot is how it was marketed. In a network television first, the suits at NBC hoped to generate buzz by offering up this episode for free on iTunes, 11 days before its broadcast debut. Unfortunately, no amount of buzz can save a sucky show. — Raven Snook