If its latest stab at former glory is any indication, 2012 may prove as bad a year for NBC as 2011. Long in last place among the four major networks, its ratings decline continued this fall with the loss of another 5 percent in viewership.
All evidence suggests NBC execs were counting on their new hour-long drama, The Firm, to give their midseason a much-needed boost. Along with a cast you'll recognize from popular movies and an early, 22-episode order, the show was gifted a two-hour Sunday night premiere before assuming its prime Thursday night slot. Unfortunately, if what was on display in its pilot is a marker of the show's entire run, The Firm isn't likely to provide NBC any relief.
Like the 1996 Tom Cruise film of the same name, the show is based on John Grisham's bestselling legal thriller, picking up 10 years after that story left off. Josh Lucas (Sweet Home Alabama) stars as Mitch McDeere, the lawyer who, along with his family, entered the witness protection program after turning state's evidence against his corrupt law firm. He's now reclaimed his name and built a new life in Washington, D.C. But it seems trouble follows Mitch as another shady law firm has set its sights on him.
The most glaring of The Firm's many problems is that it seems to have no idea what it wants to be-a taut mystery or a sentimental legal procedural. While the brief thriller elements in the pilot work, the procedural plot is an embarrassment that makes a perfect case for Hollywood's moral illiteracy. The sticking point is whether Mitch should turn in a father for trying to hire a hit man to kill Mitch's underage client, a question that causes Mitch and his staff no undue amount of angst.
Really, a lawyer doesn't know whether he should report conspiracy to commit murder to the police? The solution the show finds for this manufactured ethical dilemma is nonsensical, disgraceful, and, were it to happen in the real world, likely to result in criminal investigations and disbarment. This, combined with bland and clichéd characterizations, leaves little hope for the future of The Firm.