|Conviction: The Complete Series (2006)
Starring: Eric Balfour, Jordan Bridges, Milena Govich, Stephanie March, Anson Mount, Julianne Nicholson, J. August Richards, Catrina Ganey
For someone who’s given NBC three long-running series – all part of his valuable “Law and Order” franchise – Dick Wolf really doesn’t get much love from the network when it comes to them giving his shows a chance to build a following. Sure, they get on the air…but this is the second year running where a Wolf production has been put on mid-season for a dozen or so episodes and then is never seen again.
Perhaps feeling that the lesson behind the quick cancellation of “Law and Order: Trial by Jury” was that the network was fully saturated with actual “L & O” series (three’s the limit, apparently), Wolf’s move this time was to move as far away from the feel of those shows without actually leaving the law behind. “Conviction” is a spin-off from “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit,” utilizing the character of Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cabot – played again by Stephanie March – as a bridge of familiarity, but that’s the only thing it has in common with the franchise. Where the “L & O” series go out of their way to stay pretty close to the confines of the cases, “Conviction” makes an effort to explore the personal lives of the attorneys…which are decidedly intertwined.
We’ll start with the new guy, Nick Potter (Jordan Bridges). He comes from a privileged family and got his gig in the D.A.’s office because of his father’s connections, which means everyone’s annoyed with him from the get-go…but he’s really trying to do the best that he possibly can. As a result, he ends up being the butt of practical jokes from the old hands, like when it’s suggested that, to fill a lineup of transvestites, he put on a dress. (He does…and when he goes out of his office in his new outfit, he’s greeted by applause from the entire department.) Potter’s working with the various other members of the team, including Brian Peluso (Eric Balfour, “Six Feet Under”), a guy with a history of one-night stands and a nasty gambling habit. Peluso’s harboring a major crush on Christina Finn (Juliana Nicholson)…and she’s not the only one with romantic issues. Jim Steele (Anson Mount) had a liaison with Cabot – one that’s revisited the night before she gets engaged – and currently has a no-strings-attached sexual relationship with Jessica Rossi (Milena Govich) that both parties occasionally think might be worth expanding upon. Lastly, there’s Billy Desmond (J. August Richards), a guy with a one-hundred-percent win record and a tendency to get caught up in his desire to keep that record intact. (“Angel” fans will no doubt get a laugh out of seeing Richards playing an attorney, since his character on that show, Gunn, served in the same stead for Wolfram and Hart during the series’ last season.)
The show was only given a thirteen-episode run this past spring (all of which are contained here), which means that many plot threads are left unresolved at the end of episode #13, such the end result of Peluso going off on a bookie. (You shove a well-connected guy against a wall and punch him in the face, you’re gonna hear about it again sooner or later.) The final episode – a two-parter – feels like the producers knew the writing was on the wall; that’s presumably why they made a point of finally bringing Peluso and Finn together. Unfortunately, they also opened a can of worms by having Potter admit to having a crush on Rossi since the first time he met her, begging the question, is Rossi sick enough of the non-committal Steele to consider Potter’s advances? Don’t hold your breath waiting to find out…though it’d sure be nice if some of these characters turned up one or more of the “Law and Order” series at some point in the future.
The special features on the set are limited to seven character profiles. That’s a shame. I’d love to hear an audio commentary from Dick Wolf where he really takes advantage of the disclaimer that says that the opinions in no way reflect those of the network; after having gotten the mid-season bum’s rush two years running, I can’t imagine he doesn’t have plenty of choice words for the suits at NBC, especially since “Conviction” is at least as good as any other legal-based series on the air, a stylistic mix between the plots of “Boston Legal” and the camaraderie between colleagues that’s found on “Grey’s Anatomy.”
Mr. Wolf, take comfort in knowing that your show’s only real fault was that the upcoming season features so many great new NBC series that the network really just didn’t have anywhere to put it.Yeah, I know. It doesn’t really make me feel any better, either.