All Rise

2 out of 5

Created by: Greg Spottiswood

Covers season 1

Take a very charming cast, a “rise up the ranks and now you’re the boss” premise, a genre which allows for blank-a-week setups – legal drama, here – and spread out the usual varying characters types amongst your cast of the goofy one, the straight-laced one, and etc., and… then muddle things up by refusing to find a focus for your show for any given episode.  All Rise, which has all of those above mentioned characteristics to allow it to become another happy-to-entertain time taker-upper, instead turns out to be a puzzlingly faceless show, with all the right moves but nothing really solid to hook a viewer.

Prosecutor Lola Carmichael (Simone Missick) has just been appointed judge.  All of her goodwill earned in her former role doesn’t automatically earn her the right to run her court the way she desires, and so All Rise has us following her, case by case, learning the ropes.  A lawyer buddy, Mark Callan (Wilson Bethel) gives her common-man advice; her assistant, Sherri (Ruthie Ann Miles) keeps her on the straight and narrow; court reporter Sarah (Lindsay Mendez) dishes gossip; judge boss Lisa Brenner (Marg Helgenberger) checks in at the middle and end of each episode to remind us of whatever the moral is.  Some other side characters fill out subplot padding.

This all works well, in theory.  We want to watch Missick – she’s all charm, and we can see her sussing out her way through any given conflict – and Bethel takes on a challenging black and white morality role well, making his gray decision making believable, even if it feels, from a script-perspective, like it always takes the easy way out.  But I found that after a few episodes, I wasn’t clear: is the focus on the procedural aspect of the court?  Is it on the interrelationship of the characters?  Is it on the characters’ personal lives?  For the most general of shows of this nature (whether it’s at a hospital, or police precinct or whatnot), the answer is all of the above, and you find a balance and some audience favorites that you favor.  All Rise not only doesn’t find that balance – or those favoriates – it doesn’t dig deep enough in any direction to even seem like it’s trying.  Judge Carmichael comes across as one of those unfortunate characters who’s heralded as something of a genius, but seems rather bad at her job; other characters pick up the slack of tossing out citations of past cases to give us our procedural flavor, but the show ducks out of a real sense of followthrough with any of those threads, so it just seems like filler.  And no one has a real strong character arc, except maybe a flirtation between public defender Emily (Jessica Camacho) and deputy sheriff Luke (J. Alex Brinson), but even that seems to both jump the gun and never start all at the same time; again, the show dipping its toes but not wading in any further.  After half a season, I still wasn’t clear: Is this Missick’s show?  Does her character have a husband and a personal life outside of the court?  Are we supposed to be invested in these cases, or are they distractions from other foibles?  …Relegating the whole thing to distracting itself from itself, which isn’t the most engaging of TV.