NBC's Conviction reviewed.

NBC's Conviction reviewed.

NBC's Conviction reviewed.

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March 3 2006 6:27 PM

Legal Briefs

Conviction, NBC's sultry look at the law.

Julianne Nicholson and Eric Balfour in NBC's Conviction. Click image to expand.
Julianne Nicholson and Eric Balfour in NBC's Conviction

With Conviction (NBC, Friday, 10 p.m. ET), the Law & Order franchise enters, if not its decadent phase, then at least a midlife crisis. Here, the ritual pleasures of the procedural have been abandoned in favor something sexier and sudsier, darker and dumber. For one thing, there is no order; Conviction is narrowly concerned with the doings of a lean and hungry pack of assistant district attorneys in New York City. For another, the law comes at you more quickly and variously than it used to. Instead of focusing on one ripped-from-the-headlines case per episode, and a topical one at that, the new show briskly flings forth a handful of cases in each episode, very many of them on the ultrasensational side—a child murders his brother with a baseball bat, a drug dealer slices a college girl's stomach open in search of cocaine, a seeming hate crime against a young gay actor perhaps involves a blackmail plot.

As for that ampersand, it endures in the show's commitment to T & A. In hundreds of hours viewing the original L & O, I don't recall ever having seen Sam Waterston's abs. In contrast, I hereby suggest that the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences devise a special Emmy for the personal trainers of both Anson Mount and Milena Govich. Mount plays Jim Steele, who would seem to be the superior of Govich's scrappy Jessica Rossi. Nonetheless, they are slamming their perfectly toned figures into each other on the hush-hush, and Rossi, who has the upper hand, tends to be rather cruel, emotionally, to her lover. This isn't sexual harassment, but it is sexual heckling, and it's of a piece with the show's swampy moral odor.

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Witness knife-faced Brian Peluso (Eric Balfour), a colleague of Jim's and Jessica's who seems to live off of Advil and energy drinks. Get a load of his leather overcoat. When not fighting for justice and fighting off hangovers, Peluso is not only loving and leaving faceless babes but also racking up serious gambling debts. We get to see him rough up his bookie. Meanwhile, Jessica is giving cash to a junkie to induce the woman to show up at court and testify against her rapist, and the show's putative hero/nice guy, Nick Potter (Jordan Bridges), acknowledges in the pilot that his daddy's connections paved his way into his job at the D.A.'s office and also his previous gig at a white-shoe law firm. Ah, the spoiled boy turned public servant! On Conviction, even the clichés have a racy edge.

Troy Patterson is Slate’s writer at large and a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine.