Pilot: Conviction

I pretty much don’t have patience for procedurals anymore. The greater variety of stories and deeper focus on preexisting characters in serialized shows just appeals to me more; procedurals seem boring by comparison.

So why did Conviction, ABC’s newest procedural, look interesting enough to me to give it a shot?

*shrug* I dunno! It just looked interesting. I’ve yet to find any hard rules in what media appeals to me, just general guidelines.

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It helps that I’m familiar with (and mildly fond of) four out of five of these actors.

The premise of Conviction is that Hayley Atwell’s character, Hayes Morrison, daughter of a former president and successful lawyer, is blackmailed by Chicago’s (? I think) district attorney into leading a team tasked with investigating old cases that may or may not have had the right verdict reached. The premise does contain a neat twist in that theoretically some of the cases will end with the conviction being confirmed as valid, but otherwise it’s pretty much just Cold Case (which I did love whenever I saw an episode of it, even if it was super duper sad).

I actually found the pilot pretty enjoyable, though! Hayley Atwell’s American accent is passable, and she did a decent job of establishing the many sides of Hayes Morrison. Which is impressive because the writing didn’t do such a great job itself; she was kind of all over the place in the pilot, going from aloof to desperate to caring to badass. The other lead characters worked a bit better, although they weren’t able to go past simple (but effective) archetypes over the course of the episode.

Probably the most interesting thing Conviction has going for it is how Hayes is an unwilling (for now) leader of the team. I’m not sure this is a particularly original device, but it makes for good tension between her and the other characters that should feed some compelling material in the next few episodes. Even beside that, the fact that the show is starting with the formation of the team is a good choice; a lot of procedurals start with only one or two characters who are new to the team, meaning that there’s a lot of pre-established character relationships and dynamics that make things more staid.

It’s also a good movie from a writing perspective, as any early shifts in how the characters relate to each other (which tends to be inevitable in TV shows) resulting from the writers figuring out what they’re doing can be explained away as the characters themselves figuring out what they’re doing. It’ll be interesting to see how the dynamics shake out here.

Sort of on the flipside of The Good Place, however, I’m not a big fan of Conviction‘s visual style. The show has this sort of glossy, flat look that feels very uninteresting, and something in the way the characters are dressed and styled makes them feel indistinct. Also, the show does this weird sort of 2D-pop-up-book transition thing that looks really weird. Kudos to whoever made that decision for trying something new, but I don’t think it works.

Uck, another thing about procedurals is that they’re harder to write about. Most of this episode was spent on the team’s first case and, like, yeah, it was fine, but people following clues and uncovering evidence is just not that interesting to me anymore. Although it was done very competently here, and . . . I dunno! There’s absolutely nothing special about Conviction on paper, but I nevertheless found it to be a solid hour of television. It only premiered to a 0.9 in the 18-49 demographic, anyway, so it’s probably not long for this world.

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