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Battles at the bench

Simone Missick (right) in All Rise (CBS Broadcasting Inc.)

Television

Battles at the bench

Romantic entanglements and a kooky trial weigh down All Rise

It seems there are nearly as many TV shows about lawyers as there are lawyers. Few represent the craft honestly. (I’m talking about the TV shows.) The pilot of the new CBS legal drama All Rise doesn’t make a strong case for watching additional episodes. Romantic entanglements and a kooky trial clutter a promising premise. What All Rise needs is order in the courtroom. Better yet: Law & Order in the courtroom.

Lola Carmichael (Simone Missick) is an African American woman and Los Angeles County’s newest Superior Court judge. From the bench, the former district attorney better sees the disadvantages that minorities experience in the legal system. In a position that women of color rarely hold, Lola faces extra scrutiny herself.

In one of the pilot’s two court cases, Daphne, a Latina five months pregnant, is charged with a serious crime. She insists she’s innocent, but a decorated white police officer produces apparently damning evidence. During a break in the trial, the chief of police pressures Lola.

“I need to make a difference,” Lola later confides to a friend, “but I can’t tell if this is a battle or if this is the war.” Timely and interesting? Lola’s story is.

The rest of the pilot, however, stands guilty of lowbrow shenanigans. Someone asks if Lola is sleeping with a colleague. The public defender gets a restraining order against her ex-husband, but she and the bailiff hit it off. The court reporter has a crush on a DA—who’s dating a model.

A second court case presumably testifies to the show’s lighter side. I found it campy and unrealistic, more akin to Night Court than a Law & Order contender.

The pilot (not yet rated but likely TV-14) ends on a positive note. Daphne has doubts about parenting, but Lola reassures her: “You have … that loving superpower that only moms like you get.”

Lola won that battle, but it’ll take more for All Rise to win the war.