“A Tale of Two Law Shows”

While David Caruso is doing his best Batman impersonation on CSI: Miami (and the show becoming increasingly ridiculous the more they play into it – With his black jacket as a cape and his sunglasses as his mask, I seriously expect him to do his best Michael Keaton saying “I’m Batman” at the end of every scene), the other branches of our legal system are getting quite the work out. This season, in addition to Boston Legal, we have the freshmen shows Justice and Shark. Let’s see how the freshman class stacks up to one another.

“If you keep digging holes for yourself, people are going to get tired of throwing you down a rope.” –Tom (Kerr Smith)

Executive producer, Jerry Bruckheimer (C.S.I.), brings us Justice which follows the Los Angeles law firm of TNT&G.; A forensic look at legal defense strategy, the show is as slick as the lead attorney Victor Garber’s Ron Trott (Alias) smarmy, cocky lawyer. At once the voice of veteran leadership yet nicely greased and unlikeable, he would be a one-note character except that Garber’s charisma shines through despite his character. He heads a team of high stakes and highly paid (are there any other television kind) defense attorneys, the most notable being Eamonn Walker (Oz) who brings a captivating gravitas to his role as former prosecutor, Luther Graves.

At the end of each episode we get to see a flashback of what really happened. The show doesn’t exactly break new ground, trying to be a hybrid of C.S.I. and The Practice, but it is quite watchable.

“And my problem is that I don’t believe in God … and he hates me for it.” –Sebastian Stark

In Shark, James Woods plays Sebastian Stark (a.k.a. Shark) who has something approaching a crisis of faith when a client he gets free on a technicality goes off to murder. His brand of penance involves switching sides as he ends up working along side the L.A. district attorney, Jessica Devlin (Jeri Ryan). Would now be a bad time to point out that Jeri Ryan can’t actually act? Yes, when Star Trek: Voyager became Star Trek: Seven of Nine, it became more … interesting is too strong a word, but you know what I meane. However, we weren’t watching because of her acting chops. Luckily, she never has enough screen time to actually say or do much. In fact, she barely has enough screen time to justify her name being in the credits, much less have anything approaching chemistry with Woods. They talk fast and by that I guess we’re supposed to be caught up in their witty repartee.

Did I mention that the acting is thin?

Even Woods seems to not quite get his own character as he stumbles through the scenes. Alternately doing poor versions of arrogant, condescending House-lite when he isn’t doing a watered down James Spader (of the aforementioned Boston Legal). The set ups and characters border on the cliched. This show doesn’t even attempt to break new ground.

“Your job is to win. Justice is God’s problem.” –Sebastian Stark

What is it within us that gives rise to this need for justice? C.S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia, makes an argument for a Law of Human Nature, those laws of right and wrong written onto men’s hearts. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20) After all, ethical disputes presuppose some common standard of human decency.

However, as we look around at the people around us, we’re disturbed by how men actually behave versus how they ought to behave. Even at our best, we struggle with the already/not yet tension: that we are already redeemed, though not yet fully redeemed. Already holy, not yet fully holy. Something in us tells us that there is a standard of behavior that we ought to adhere or at least aspire to. And if there is some kind of code written into each of us, the fact that we don’t live in a state of lawlessness still points to a Lawgiver. Jesus is our Advocate (1 John 2:1), pleading our case before the Father like a defense attorney.

“Do you miss it? Doing God’s work?” –Betsy (Erin Daniels)

We work in a fallen world, a world rife with injustice, yet we’re God’s co-workers in bringing about justice. Our mission defines our vocation. At least between bouts of watching Vincent D’Onofrio (Law & Order: Criminal Intent) attempting to do his own variation of the Dark Knight Detective.