ABC is at this point so enamored with the idea of television that weaves in melodrama and struggles under the weight of dragging along its own gimmick that it can’t leave an interesting premise alone.

Such are the problems you have to hope drift to the sidelines as Conviction maneuvers through further episodes.

The heart of the show revolves around a new investigative unit in New York City – the Conviction Integrity Unit – that gets five days per case to go over convictions to see if they can find any innocent people who are sitting behind bars. The team consists of a prosecutor, a star defense attorney, a crack investigator, and a specialist in forensics and all things science related.

It’s not a bad premise, and it gives us a chance to explore police drama from a fresh perspective¬†and stay on top of headlines and/or the relevant niche of the zeitgeist. The details and characters leave room to work our way through some ideology clashes, etc.

That’s not enough here though. Where’s the fun in that premise?

In Conviction, Hayes Morrison (Hayley Atwell) is the daughter of a former President, whose mother is still moving in political circles, and running for something. More importantly, Hayes has spent much of her life in the tabloids, creating one scandal after another, and we enter the show as she is picked up for cocaine possession.

D.A. Conner Wallace (Eddie Cahill) jumps on this opportunity to coerce Morrison into running the CIU, because her face running the operation will be good for his future political career. Of course, she doesn’t want the job, apparently in large part because she’s a screw-up and likes it that way.

Conviction - HAYLEY ATWELL, SHAWN ASHMORE
photo: ABC/John Medland

This gives us the opening for Sam Spencer (Shawn AshmoreThe Following, Quantum Break) to be the A.D.A. who got that lead position snatched away from him. It also slides us into a position that lets Maxine (Merrin DungeyChasing Life, Once Upon a Time), the “friend to cops and their viewpoint” character, sneer at Morrison most of the time.

The shift and drift of the show leave it feeling like something that’s stumbling around most of the time, as it tries to figure out what story it’s working on at any given time. If a show could sensibly be described as kitschy clutter, and it can’t, this would be the show.

If the distraction of meaninglessly glamming up to see Mom, and laying the foundation for possible back-stabbing weren’t enough to dilute the effort, you know our focus is spread rather thin by virtue of the confusingly-simplistic forensic efforts and two-dimensional side characters. It’s like a show with ADD, flitting from one thought to the next nearly randomly, and unable to discern which are the important bits.

Nevertheless, Atwell is good as ever, which is almost as charismatic as it gets, and the rest of the cast has the ability to keep you interested, assuming they get something worth working with. You have to imagine that the show is going to settle into a calmer routine, because hopefully the former First Lady won’t show up in every episode, and no one can expect our lead’s tantrums to play well for any extended period. If it can get its feet under it, and let most of the shtick fall away, this could be a show that offers an intriguing look, probably not at the criminal cases themselves, but at the clash of perspectives.

The show has its moments of fun, and if nothing else it will make you want to like it, but its only hope that makes you believe the cases will get the attention they need, and the positives are all potential at this point.

 


 

 

 

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Marc Eastman is the owner and operator of Are You Screening? and has been writing film reviews for over a decade, and several branches of the internet's film review world have seen his name. He is also a member of The Broadcast Film Critics Association and The Broadcast Television Journalists Association.