Winter TV First Impression: NBC's The Firm

The broadcast and major cable networks have nearly two dozen brand-new shows (hopefully) heating up primetime this winter. To help you sort through it all, TVLine, as we did in the fall, is presenting a few First Impressions. Next on our list is.…

THE SHOW | NBC’s The Firm (two-hour pilot airs Sunday, Jan. 8 at 9/8c; time slot premiere is Thursday, Jan. 12 at 10/9)

THE COMPETITION | On Thursdays, it will face CBS’ The Mentalist, ABC’s Private Practice, FX’s Archer (returning Jan. 19) and, I suppose, that MTV show about buffoons from Jersey.

THE CAST | Josh Lucas (The Lincoln Lawyer), Molly Parker (Deadwood), Juliette Lewis (Cape Fear), Callum Keith Rennie (The Killing) and others

Hot for Winter: TVLine Presents Your January Premieres Calendar

THE SET-UP | Picking up 10 years after the events of the John Grisham novel (and Tom Cruise film), The Firm finds Mitch McDeere anxious to get himself, wife Abby (played by Parker) and their 10-year-old daughter out of the Federal Witness Protection Program now that the Morolto family crime boss whom he put behind bars is dead. Against the feds’ wishes, Mitch starts up a storefront practice with his brother/P.I. Ray (Rennie) and assistant Tammy (Lewis). Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica) recurs as the boss of an elite law firm that schemes to add Mitch as a partner.

More Winter TV First Impressions: Showtime’s House of Lies, NBC’s Smash, Fox’s Alcatraz

THE PROS | If you (as I did) glommed onto The Firm back in the day, it’s ostensibly fun to “catch back up” with familiar characters. Lucas is fine as Mitch, though he’s a somewhat random choice to “replace” Tom Cruise. (That said, he brings to the material more gravitas than his predecessor. And my female peers seem to like his very blue eyes.) Rennie steals scenes as Ray, to the point you’ll be lobbying for him to headline his own primetime show someday. For fans of the book, Lewis is more perfect a Tammy than Holly Hunter was. I’m kind of hot-and-cold when it comes to Parker, but here I loved her as Abby.

THE CONS | My goodness, this show asks a lot of the viewer — where to start? For one, the two-hour pilot expects you to track no fewer than three legal cases, leaving you to wonder which one will prove essential to the show’s mythology. (Spoiler: It’s not the one you think!) And the prolonged stretch of time afforded to one case (a young boy accused of stabbing to death a classmate), while obviously there to inform us of Mitch’s value system, is the stuff of textbook law drama; you could be watching literally any legal show. Plot holes are aplenty, including the fact that Mitch keeps his infamous name after coming out of hiding. When an understandably reluctant Mitch is wooed to join Helfer’s tony firm, the hokey compromise they arrive at screams of being a plot device. The McDeere daughter is the latest in a line of TV kids who whine about the show’s central conceit; why can’t everyone be chill like Violet Harmon?

THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE | I wanted to be but emerged as not a fan of this TV adaptation, but may give it another episode (perhaps two) to find its footing and further delve into the dark secret Helfer’s firm is hiding. Time slot-wise, The Mentalist will obviously beat up on Mitch good; the only question is how this NBC newbie’s numbers compare to predecessor Prime Suspect.

Watch a video preview for The Firm, then vote in our poll below.