The time has come once again (again). The summer sun set long ago. The days have grown colder and the nights have grown longer and we’ve filled those nights with fretting about the election new fall TV. As happens every autumn, the five major networks unleashed a flurry of new programs meant to entertain us into these dark, frigid winter months (and beyond). So many choices. So much risk! How will you know what to watch? That’s where I come in. I watch every new fall pilot episode so that you don’t have to (even if it takes me months to do so). I take one for the team, so you can watch the… screen(m). It’s time for more of…
THE PILOT PROJECT (2016 Edition Pt. 2)
Conviction (Mondays on ABC)
Conviction is ABC’s Notorious, in the sense that-wait. What? Notorious airs on ABC? Oh. Well… then I guess Conviction is just… Notorious. Nah, I’m playing, it actually has very little in common with Notorious other than the fact that they’re both ABC shows that ABC wishes were made by Shonda Rhimes instead.
Conviction feels like the kind of show you make when you simply want to keep an actor on your network. In this case, it feels like a consolation prize for Hayley Atwell after the cancellation of Agent Carter. You’ve got a marketable star, so you attach them to a procedural and hope it catches on (see House, Bones, Castle, every other show on TV). This procedural casts Atwell as Hayes Morrison (WHAT A NAME!), a former first daughter who is effectively blackmailed into leading the “Conviction Integrity Unit”, a new team formed by District Attorney Conner Wallace (Eddie Cahill) that re-examines old cases in which there’s suspicion of wrongful conviction. It’s basically Serial, but with actual lawyers instead of NPR producers. In fact, the show’s first case is so reminiscent of Adnan Syed’s that it had to have been intentional. The team is rounded out with a cadre of likeable actors: Shawn Ashmore (Animorphs), Merrin Dungey (Alias), Emily Kinney (The Walking Dead), and Manny Montana (Graceland). Yes, I chose to credit Shawn Ashmore with Animorphs over X-Men. DEAL. WITH. IT. Like Notorious, the show has a great cast that I want to watch… I just don’t really want to watch the show all that much.
I know I should stop comparing this show to Notorious, it’s just that my feelings on Conviction are very similar. I don’t begrudge Conviction’s existence, I just wish this cast had been given something more interesting to do. If you like ABC’s style of procedurals, you’ll probably find something to like here. In fact, I enjoyed this pilot much more than the Notorious pilot, even though I think the central conceit behind Notorious (the relationship between criminal law and the media) is more interesting and could lead to better stories. If I had to guess why I preferred Conviction, I’d probably say that it has to do with Atwell, who is infinitely watchable. Atwell’s a star, and she’s the only reason I was able to make it through two seasons of Agent Carter, which I thought was an absolute bore. I know that that’s an unpopular opinion, but I maintain that what people liked about the show was the character of Peggy Carter, not the show itself. Atwell is enough to make Conviction watchable, even if she doesn’t make it all that interesting.
If all you’re looking for is your weekly dose of Hayley Atwell (sadly sans her British accent), then this is the show for you. If you’re looking for something unique or original, maybe look elsewhere.