Wednesday, May 24, 2006


They may have killed off another A.D.A. on Law and Order, and NBC execs killed Conviction, but the legal crime drama is still alive and kicking on TV. Proof of that is CBS' decision last week to pick up yet another crime-fighting show to add to their already-loaded schedule: Shark, starring James Woods. What's more, they're plunking it at 10pm on Thursday night, a prime slot right after C.S.I. that was occupied until now by Without a Trace.

Woods is playing the high-powered and aggressive celebrity defense attorney, Sebastian Stark, who all of a sudden switches over to lead a high-profile crime unit to fight the bad guys. The premise is that this guy has to lead a team of young lawyers and also get used to the culture shock of having to serve the public, instead of himself. That leads to a lot of tension with his new boss (Jeri Ryan), who may not see eye-to-eye with Stark's aggressive style.

Now, I think this is a pretty unusual situation to begin with. You do not usually have successful, aggressive defense attorneys taking that monumental pay cut to join the D.A.'s office. Usually, it's the other way around. It's the prosecutors who end up bailing to become defense attorneys, largely because they get fed up with the civil service wages or with the politics involved at the D.A.'s office. The writers are going to have to come up with some compelling reason why Stark signed on to this new job, because these big defense attorneys normally wouldn't bother! From what I gather, it has to do with one of Stark's former clients going on to kill again. So that's apparently why he's changed sides. I see possibilities for the writers to come up with episodes where Stark might second-guess his own decision to take on this new prosecutorial gig. He could say "I junked the big money for this? Am I crazy?" Stark could also find himself in situations where his prosecutorial style might get him in trouble; he might end up going after and convicting innocent people for crimes they didn't commit, and have to turn around and set things right again. I'm looking forward to seeing what this character is all about and how he deals with this new situation. Interesting stuff.

Imagine TV and 20th Century Fox were able to get this series off the ground by grabbing Woods, and also by securing Spike Lee to direct the pilot episode. Lee came off directing Inside Man, which featured a lot of action and was loaded with cops and robbers. I'm expecting the same with this show; plenty of crime-fighting for the procedural show crowd. Shark sounds like it has lots of potential, given the impressive group of people they have behind this one.

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