Written By: Ayelet Waldman
Revisions By: Sherri Cooper & Jennifer Levin
Draft Date: January 23, 2012
I love these kinds of reviews. Short, sweet, very little to think about.
Ladies and gentleman, welcome to mediocrity... the kind of television show that I raise my nose at, but CBS shoves on the air and gets 10+ million viewers every week showing. It goes down easy. You don't have to think about it. A question is posed and then it is answered and, just maybe, there's a little emotional story for the investigator characters. Bing, bang, boom, you're done.
Ugh, I'm so bored by it all!
The "take" of this particular iteration of the crime procedural is a light-hearted mix of family and investigation. That, and the main character, Juliet, is a PI, not a cop (though her PI partner is an ex-cop). Juliet is a happily married mother of three and an ex-public defender. No, I'm not entirely sure why, after having her third child, she went into a life of being a PI instead of going back to her job as a PD. I think we're supposed to read/watch and think, "Oh, it's so amusing how she's balancing being a mother and a PI, and how her perspective and relationships as a mother help her solve crimes!"
Juliet Applebaum isn't exactly Gregory House or Patrick Jane, though, in the sense of "I'm dying to come back and watch this magnetic, flawed character every week." Things, really, are good in her life. No conflict at home (except whether her six-year-old daughter, Ruby, has an eating disorder and if Juliet can survive a visit from her mother, who happens to be a judge). No sexual tension with Al Hockey, the ex-cop who is her partner in crime solving. But there is a fun, light flippancy about a lot of it, and it comes across as more grounded and believable and comes together better than CBS's attempt last season at a quirky PI show, Hail Mary.
The case of the week in the pilot is the death/murder of the assistant principal of the charter school Juliet is trying to get Ruby into. I'm not sure if Juliet and Al Hockey will be looking into murders on a week-to-week basis, Jessica Fletcher-style, or if some weeks may be more traditional PI work. The benefit of murder is that there are life and death stakes. It was a problem, I think, shows like Veronica Mars (which I loved... for the first two seasons... in retrospect am kind of ambivalent on the third) ran into... week to week it was a crapshoot whether the mystery of the week held water. Veronica Mars had the additional elements of teen drama, social status clashes, and long-arc mysteries tiding over the weaker MotWs... and that stuff isn't really present in Applebaum.
So perhaps a murder of the week formula is what the series, should it get there, needs. But I think this show would stand a better chance of getting to series with a touch more drama to look forward to, whether we're talking UST or simply wanting to watch a unique force of nature get the bad guy in the end. Juliet's not there yet.