They're gonna need a bigger plot...
, 12 Feb 2008
The set up of 'Shark' has the feel of one of a dozen no-brainer ideas a television series creator probably comes up with every day: a demon defence lawyer specialising in getting scum off the hook has a crisis of conscience and ends up becoming a demon DA prosecutor using his schtick to lock up the scum he used to set free.
Great. For the ten minutes it takes you to realise that you would to pull this off you will need
1)a stellar central presence to anchor the series and
2) bags of self-discipline not to take the lazy option and phone in identikit episodes to merely generate a regular paycheck.
Well, they managed 50%. This is a dream gig for James Woods (apparently the show wasn't going to get approval until he signed up for it... BIG CLUE!). He chews up the scenery in classic fashion and turns in a note perfect performance. He manges gear shifts from courtroom theatrics to clueless but keen father with masterly precision. This is a role he was born to play.
The rest of the cast do the work to keep up with Woods, including a fascinatingly cast but criminally underused Jeri Ryan, a versatility proving turn from Alexis Cruz (he used to be Skaara in Stargate once upon a time) and several other great performances from regulars and guests alike. In the end, however, the creative team let the whole thing fall over.
Each individual episode is perfectly fine. Nothing wrong with them at all. But if you watch a DVD of four episodes by the end of two the next two are becoming an effort because the storylines just aren't anything special. There is a nice touch in that you get to see a little of Woods' home life in addition to the courtroom stuff but this is never more than a passing footnote in trawling through the largely predictable courtroom battles.
It irritated me, for example, that after the first couple of episodes each case was summarily called a 'loser' the minute it landed on the desk. Well, yes, the initial point that it was easier to defend someone by planting seeds of 'reasonable doubt' than it was to eradicate that doubt is the conceit of the series. If you just repeat the point every week then that's several lines of wasted dialogue and we're no further forward. Besides, what are they going to do when something really *is* more of a loser? Say: 'I know we've said things are a loser in the past but this time we really *mean* it!'?
It's the little things that make the prospect of 6 whole discs of 'Shark' seem like such an ordeal. If there was some forward momentum such as you found in the incomparable but sadly short-lived 'Boomtown' then it would be a gem with Woods' heavy hitting being the icing on the cake.
This, however, is more like the icing without the cake. Icing is nice but it makes you gag a bit if you eat too much by itself, and thus is 'Shark'.
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