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Critics are panning Fox’s new drama Proven Innocent for its bland, one-dimensional characters and seeming identity crisis. Is it a courtroom drama? A detective show? A comedy?
The show centers on Madeline Scott (Rachelle Lefevre), an attorney at a firm dedicated to overturning wrongful convictions. Madeline’s quest to prove her clients innocent is partly because of her own past—she and her brother spent 10 years in prison for the murder of their best friend—and partly because she’s on a mission to stop Chicago’s seemingly corrupt city prosecutor from becoming state attorney general.
Madeline’s law team is a posse of caricatures: Lawyer Easy Boudreau (Russell Hornsby) took Madeline’s case because he felt the “Lord’s guidance” calling him to it. Violet (Nikki M. James) is the woman wingman whose podcast frames the show and allows the scriptwriters to sermonize about hot-button issues. Investigator Bodie (Vincent Kartheiser) provides comic relief with his absurd undercover antics, such as joining the fire department to investigate an arson case. Each character seems to belong to a different show: It feels as if the writers couldn’t pick a genre.
Prosecutor Gore Bellows (Kelsey Grammer) is the most intriguing character so far. Every time Bellows goes head to head with Madeline, he defends himself: After all, he’s a prosecutor and it’s his job to take dangerous people off the streets. But while he says and does good things, his body language—smirking, standing too close to a female aid—provokes unease and suggests Bellows will come to a bad end.
Initial episodes of Proven Innocent (rated TV-14) included some mildly raw language and a disturbing image of suicide. The show promises to explore interesting questions: How will Madeline’s high-profile life affect her family, especially her brother, who got into drugs in prison? To what extent will her desire for revenge against Bellows overrule her desire to help innocent people? What good is it to be set free if people still think you’re guilty?
And of course, who did commit the original murder?