NBC TV Pilot: Bluff City Law (2019) - Reviewed

Bluff City Law, set to premier on NBC network television on September 23rd, is another one of those fast-talking American legal drama shows featuring snappy dialogue, unexpected developments and moments treading a fine line between drama and comedy.  Focusing on a family-based law firm in Memphis, Tennessee, the show stars Jimmy Smits fresh off How to Get Away with Murder and Grey’s Anatomy star Caitlin McGee with the two as an estranged father-daughter legal team, Elijah and Sydney Strait, who must overcome their deep-seated differences to take on some of the country’s most controversial civil rights cases.  

Created by The Meg screenwriter Dean Georgaris and The Departed producer Michael Aguilar, the show is set to become the next Law & Order spin-off among many.  In an unusual but ongoing move to generate buzz, the pilot was screened theatrically ahead of the intended air date to generate early buzz with all the commercial breaks in place and the transparent NBC logo on the bottom right hand corner of the screen.  If this were a film, it was probably the shortest I’ve seen theatrically in some time, running a mere 45 minutes for the intended network time slot. 

That said, the theater was full of excited patrons eager to get an early look at the upcoming show though you could hear whispers among some saying their respective others would rather wait to watch it on television.  Cinematography and sound design on this show is admittedly basic and unremarkable but then again so are a majority of network television legal dramas which are more about the characters and events than cinematic techniques.

In any event, Bluff City Law isn’t exactly breaking new ground but the performances from the two leads (notably Jimmy Smits) keep the proceedings engaging with the character of Elijah Strait having years and years of making up to do for his embittered firebrand daughter Sydney.  So far the show is off to a good start save for one final contrivance that felt like something dreamed up on the latest series finale of Weeds.  That said, if you’re into legal dramas on Network television, then Bluff City Law is something for you to look forward to.  

- Andrew Kotwicki