Tele-Tuesday: The Firm – Unfinished Business

Back in February, I reviewed NBC’s continuation of John Grisham’s The Firm.  Even then, I could tell the new television drama was in danger of cancellation.  The series premiered on a Sunday night in January before moving to its supposed permanent home on Thursday nights.  But that didn’t last long.  After just a few episodes, the network moved the show once again to a time slot that I couldn’t help but think would kill the show—Saturday nights.

I was right.  In May, NBC announced the official cancellation of The Firm.  But, in an unorthodox move, the network agreed to air the remaining episodes—all twenty-two of them.

Knowing the show had been axed, I did not rush through the recordings on my DVR.  Anyone that knows me knows that my DVR is almost always at capacity, and I chose to first watch the programs that still breathed network life.  However, in-between watching the Olympics this weekend, I finally finished The Firm.

I disagree with cancellations all of the time.  Perhaps that’s because I like too much television.  When one likes five-hundred thousand television shows (okay, that’s a bit high… but everyone catches my drift), frustrations with cancellations are expected.  But all of that aside, I am fully disappointed with the network’s decision to kill this particular program.

The Firm television series picks up ten years after Mitch McDeere (Josh Lucas) turns in his law firm’s documents proving they were overbilling clients to the FBI (from the Grisham novel and the movie).  The story continues that these said documents led the FBI to take over the law firm and uncover piles of other files incriminating the mob, who has in turn set their sights on Mitch and his family as retribution.

The U.S. Marshalls placed the McDeere family into witness protection for a short period of time, but the TV drama begins after the family leaves witsec and returns to a so-called “normal life” with Mitch running his very own private practice.  But when Mitch is faced with a major legal battle versus a top medical company, he strikes a deal with a large D.C. firm—their resources for a percentage of his earnings.  He officially works for the firm, but he gets to keep his staff and his off-site office location.

Or so he thought…

“It’s happening again…”

Each episode, or chapter as each week is appropriately titled (Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc), starts in the present day, then rewinds back in time to tell the story, uncover more clues, and follow Mitch through the mystery, before sending it back to the present day.  Every chapter features bits and pieces of three different plots: a minor storyline, a major storyline, and the ongoing storyline.

The minor:  Mitch will represent a new individual case each week, like when he takes on a dirty judge.
The major:  Mitch will continue to research the Sarah Holt case—a client on trial for murdering an older woman while in her care.  This story qualifies as the major plot line because unbeknownst to Mitch, his new firm is interested in this case.  The firm isn’t interested in Miss Holt, the woman Mitch represents; they are interested in protecting their client—Noble Insurance.
The ongoing:  The mafia will follow and chase after Mitch and his family for his actions in Memphis (the storyline from the book/movie).

Without a doubt, The Firm‘s intricate plot made viewers pay attention.  Maybe this was too much for TV audiences today.  But for those that enjoy a good novel, particularly a good mystery, the plot was genius.

I don’t want to give too much of the story away for those who didn’t have the privilege of enjoying chapter after chapter with me, but we do see a glimpse of truth behind the mystery in each episode.  The Firm doesn’t keep us guessing, not completely anyway, week after week like other programs.  And it’s a darn-shame we won’t get to watch the rest of the story unfold… because like most other series granted a twenty-two episode season, The Firm wrapped with a cliff-hanger.  Who wouldn’t?  Twenty-two episodes is a lot.  I can understand a series tasked with recording a short-season, like six episodes, or maybe even twelve, would feel uncertain with its future.  But twenty-two?  I’d feel pretty safe with a pick-up, especially when the story is top-notch.   Yet, here we are… no more Firm.

As a Grisham fan, I hope the author continues his story—maybe a new novel—maybe a new movie—but I personally feel, without a doubt, that The Firm deserves more.  One way or another…

And if he does, please keep the cast.  Josh Lucas as Mitch, Juliette Lewis as Tammy (the chain-smoking legal secretary), and Callum Keith Rennie as Ray (a private investigator/Mitch’s ex-con older brother) were perfect in their roles.

What do you think? Did you watch The Firm?  Has there been a series cancelled that you’re still wondering how it would have or how it should have ended?  I’d love to hear from you!

P.S.  If you enjoy a good mystery with a complex story, I highly recommend making a marathon of The Firm once its available on DVD or Netflix…

Remember to check out my YA Mystery novel, Football Sweetheart… now available on Kindle and Nook!

Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday – Dirty Business, Again

This week Amber West and I review two of NBC’s new dramas on Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday: Smash and The Firm.

What comes to mind when we hear the words “The Firm”?  Many associate these words with the best-selling novel written by John Grisham, but perhaps most think Tom Cruise almost immediately from his performance as Mitch McDeere in the 1993 film adapted from the novel, The Firm.

Mitch McDeere, fresh out of law school, is hired by a top law firm in Memphis where he and his young wife move (Abby, played by Jeanne Tripplehorn) to begin their new life together.  After just a few short weeks working for the firm, Mitch discovers that the company has been overbilling clients and he is immediately in a race to save his and his family’s life.  The Firm is a fantastic, suspenseful movie (also starring Gene Hackman) which is why I initially cringed at the thought of the story being retold yet again.

But it’s not.  Not really.

The Firm television series picks up ten years after Mitch McDeere (Josh Lucas, Sweet Home Alabama) turns in his law firm’s documents to the FBI, proving they were overbilling clients (from the novel and the movie).  The story continues that these said documents led the FBI to take over the law firm and uncover piles of other files incriminating the mob, who has in turn set their sights on Mitch and his family as retribution.

The U.S. Marshalls place the McDeere family (Abby played by Molly Parker, and daughter Claire played by Natasha Calis) into witness protection for a short period of time, but the television program begins after the family leaves witsec and returns to a so-called “normal life” with Mitch running his very own private practice.

Each episode, or chapter as each week is appropriately titled (Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc), starts current day, then rewinds back in time to tell the story, uncovers more clues, and follows Mitch through the mystery, before it ends back in the current day.

"It's happening again..."

The pilot begins with Mitch running frantically through the DC area, running from two men in suits.  Mitch believes to have escaped the two suits and arrives in a hotel room where he is scheduled to meet a man.  This man briefly argues with Mitch, giving him nothing, before leaping to his death instead of facing the suits (they found Mitch) banging on the hotel door.

Rewind a few weeks…

While defending a court appointed fourteen year old boy charged with stabbing and murdering a classmate, a large D.C. firm swoops in and offers Mitch an opportunity to run a new criminal division – a job he declines but can’t shake the feeling that this is the right job for him that he has always wanted, not to mention will save his failing practice.   Despite Abby’s gut-feeling, considering her husband’s experience with the last firm (from the movie), the McDeeres attend a wine and dine to meet the partners and clients of the pursuing law firm.

Mitch and Abby meet the new firm...

But the deciding factor comes when Mitch is faced with a major legal battle versus a top medical company over a defective heart stint.  He strikes a deal with the D.C. firm – their resources for a percentage of his earnings.  He officially works for the firm, but he gets to keep his staff and his off-site office location.

Or so he thinks…

It seems each chapter will feature bits and pieces of three different plots: a minor storyline, an ongoing storyline, and one major storyline.

The minor:  Mitch will represent a new individual case each week, like when he takes on a dirty judge (guest star, Victor Garber).

The ongoing:  The mafia will follow and chase after Mitch and his family for his actions in Memphis (the movie).

The major:  Mitch will continue to research the Sarah Holt case – a client on trial for murdering an older woman while in her care.

This story qualifies as the major plot line because unbeknownst to Mitch, his new firm is interested in THIS case.  The firm isn’t interested in Miss Holt, the woman Mitch represents; they are interested in protecting their client – Noble Insurance.

Who is Noble insurance?  Remember the man from the pilot who jumps to his death?  He’s a Vice President at Noble insurance…

I don’t want to give too much of the story away for those who haven’t been enjoying chapter after chapter with me, but we do see a glimpse of truth behind the mystery in each episode.  The Firm doesn’t keep us guessing, not completely anyway, week after week like some frustrating shows.

The casting is absolutely great with Josh Lucas and his baby blues replacing one of Hollywood’s favorites in Tom Cruise, but also with Juliette Lewis (Cape Fear, Natural Born Killers) as the chain-smoking legal secretary Tammy (Holly Hunter role in the movie) and Callum Keith Rennie (Battlestar Galactica) as Ray, Mitch’s private detective/ex-con older brother.  Plus as a side note and odd-fun-fact, the McDeere house in the TV series resembles the McDeere house in the movie (in my opinion).

The Firm premiered on a Sunday night in January on NBC before moving to its temporary permanent home on Thursday nights.  I say temporary permanent because NBC has already moved The Firm, and to a time slot that I can’t help but think will kill the show – Saturday nights.  All this moving around can make a girl dizzy…

Because of the cast and the non-stop mystery and intrigue, I must award The Firm with the MacTV rating – it is by far a guilty pleasure like my favorite box of Velveeta Shells & Cheese.  After all, I can’t turn away from a good mystery; I never know where I’ll draw inspiration for my stories.  I’ve actually thought that this television series could have jumped the small screen all together and continued into a major motion picture sequel with success.

Now, depending on how The Firm wraps up the multiple plot lines, the rating could definitely fall to a JFTV rating, the kind of TV I regret watching after story-telling takes a plunge for the worst.  I hope this doesn’t happen; I really don’t want to feel miserable like I do after eating too many chocolate bars.

What do you think? Do you watch The Firm?  How does it fare in comparison with Grisham’s book and the movie?  Do you like Josh Lucas as Mitch, or do you prefer Tom Cruise?  Do you think the move to Saturday night will kill the show?  I’d love to hear from you!

Now click over to Amber’s blog and read her thoughts on Smash.   Remember our “fight” last week to review Alcatraz?  Yea, no fighting this week.  Smash is all Amber’s…

Come back next week when Amber and I flip networks and review two of ABC’s dramas: Parenthood and my favorite of all the new shows, Revenge.

Remember to stop by the #watchwed hashtag in Twitter to discuss any of today’s reviews, or to mention any television programs that you’d like to see on Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday in the future.

A Recap of The WatchWed Review System:

GTV (Gourmet TV): Everything we want and more
MacTV (MacNCheese TV): Guilty pleasure. Not perfect, but is satisfies
GMacTV (Gourmet MacNCheese TV): A combination of fine wine and comfort food
JFTV (Junk food TV): It’s not great for us, but we’ll go back for seconds
TBPTV (Twice Baked Potato TV): Part gourmet and delicious, while absolutely horrible for our cholesterol
SSTV (Still Simmering TV): It has potential, but the jury is still out
NIV (Nyquil Induced Viewing): Perfect for that late night television sleep timer
LOTV (Liver&Onions TV): Do we really have to explain? Blech

Tele-Tuesday: New Year, New Drama

Even though it feels like the fall television schedule just started and we’re still enjoying our favorite shows, it’s a new year which means it’s time for a new set of programs to check out!

This January, three new dramas attempt to sweep us off our feet – one revisits new crimes tracking back to an old, creepy prison; another follows a quirky specialist, who solves even the most difficult of cases; and one of our favorite novel and big screen attorneys works frantically to uncover secrets from yet another law firm.

*****

Alcatraz

We all know Alcatraz, also known as The Rock, as the impenetrable prison located on an island outside San Francisco that housed some of America’s worst criminals.  We also know that Alcatraz closed its doors in the early 1960s, but what if the former prisoners resurfaced and started committing crimes again?

That’s exactly what happens in the new FOX series, Alcatraz.  How is it possible that “ghosts” from Alcatraz are committing murders and other crimes today? Detective Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones) will work alongside an Alcatraz historian and expert (Jorge Garcia, Lost), while battling the government agent standing her in her way (Sam Neill, Jurassic Park) to solve these mysterious crimes.

Alcatraz premieres Monday, January 16th.

*****

The Finder

Bones is a favorite in our household, which is why we felt a tad bit robbed last season when “The Finder” episode aired in Bones’ time slot.  Of course, the introduction was rather genius – the network was testing the waters for the potential Bones spinoff, and briefly introduced the series by interweaving the Bones protagonists.

In the episode, Booth and Bones travel to the Florida Everglades to consult with a former acquaintance of Booth’s (Walter Sherman played by Geoff Stults).  Walter is a former war veteran with the ability “to find” anything or anyone.  Along with his bar partner (Michael Clarke Duncan, The Green Mile) and colleague (Saffron Burrows, Boston Legal), Walter solves the case for Booth and Bones, while dominating most of the sixty minute episode.

Despite feeling robbed, as mentioned earlier, the pilot episode showed promise.  It doesn’t hurt that Geoff Stults is adorable, for those who aren’t familiar with 7th Heaven or Happy Town.

Airing the “backdoor pilot” did suffer one casualty – Saffron Burrows will not resume her role.  Instead, The Finder will introduce two new characters:  Deputy U.S. Marshal Isabel Zambada (Mercedes Masohn) and an alleged criminal do-gooder, Willa Monday (Maddie Hasson).

The Finder will continue and follow its sister program (Bones) this Thursday night, January 12th on Fox.

*****

The Firm

The Firm picks up ten years after Mitch McDeere (Josh Lucas, Sweet Home Alabama) turns in his law firm’s documents to the FBI, proving they were over-billing clients (from the John Grisham novel and the movie starring Tom Cruise, Gene Hackman, and Jeanne Tripplehorn).  The story continues that these said documents led the FBI to take over the law firm and uncover piles of other files incriminating the mob, who has in turn set their sights on Mitch and his family as retribution.

The U.S. Marshalls put the McDeere family (Abby played by Molly Parker, and daughter Claire played by Natasha Calis) into witness protection for a short period of time, but the TV series picks up after the family returns to a so-called “normal life” with Mitch running his very own private practice.

While defending a court appointed fourteen year old boy charged with stabbing and murdering a classmate, a large D.C. firm swoops in and offers Mitch an opportunity to run a new criminal division – a job he declines but can’t shake the feeling that this is the right job for him that he has always wanted, not to mention will save his financially unsound practice.  Despite Abby’s gut-feeling, considering her husband’s experience with the last firm (from the movie), the McDeeres attend a wine and dine to meet the partners and clients of the pursuing law firm.

But the deciding factor comes when Mitch is faced with a major legal battle versus a top medical company over a defective heart stint.  He strikes a deal with the D.C. firm – their resources for a percentage of his earnings.  He officially works for the firm, but he gets to keep his staff and his off-site office location.

"It's happening again."

As far as the upcoming season, I see that not only will Mitch have the mafia after him for his past actions (from the movie), but will also battle his own firm AND against the medical company (I’m thinking like The Rainmaker here, another Grisham favorite).  And, it’s already been shown that the firm’s “real” client in Mitch’s murder trial is not in fact the young woman he is defending; instead, it’s some “suit” who jumps to his death while Mitch is desperately interrogating him, trying to get answers.

So technically, we should have about three major plots…

The casting is absolutely great with Josh Lucas and his baby blues replacing one of Hollywood’s favorites in Tom Cruise, but also with Juliette Lewis (Cape Fear, Natural Born Killers) as the chain-smoking legal secretary Tammy (Holly Hunter role in the movie) and Callum Keith Rennie (Battlestar Galactica) as Ray, Mitch’s private detective/ex-con older brother.  Plus as a side note and odd-fun-fact, the McDeere house in the TV series resembles the McDeere house in the movie (in my opinion).

The Firm premiered Sunday night on NBC, but will return this Thursday, January 12th to its normal time slot.

*****

What do you think – did you catch the pilot episode of The Firm or The Finder?  Do you plan to watch Alcatraz?  Which show has the most promise and why?  I’d love to hear from you!