Katherine Heigl’s return to small screen casts ‘Doubt’

Photo courtesy of CBS

Katherine Heigl’s path to the new legal drama “Doubt” has been riddled with stumbles, from poorly rated movies such as “Jenny’s Wedding” to her most recent TV appearance as the main character in NBC’s short-lived thriller “State of Affairs.”

Since her tumultuous departure from the beloved “Grey’s Anatomy,” Heigl has had trouble finding hit characters. “Doubt” premiered Feb. 15 on CBS and is the second new legal show on the network, finding company with Michael Weatherly’s (“NCIS”) “Bull” since “The Good
Wife” ended.

“Doubt” follows Heigl’s character Sadie Ellis, a defense attorney, and other lawyers at her firm, including Dule Hill (“Psych”), Laverne Cox (“Orange is the New Black”) and Elliott Gould (“MASH”). Heigl and Hill’s characters represent Dr. Billy Brennan, played by Steven Pasquale (“Rescue Me”).

In the show, Brannan is on trial for the murder of his girlfriend, which occurred 15 years ago. The premise, as outlined in the trailer that built up the anticipation of the show, portrays Ellis on the slow track to fall in love with her client, who may or may not be a murderer.

The cast of the show is quite talented, so it is a shame that such an ensemble is wasted on the writing. There are moments of inspired conversation, such as Ellis explaining that she will “fight because most people won’t.”

In fact, the writers seem to have bouts of motivational and poingant lines, from pep-talks, to calls for justice peppered throughout the pilot. Heigl does act the part of Ellis exceptionally and seems well suited for the role. It is reminiscent of her character Izzy in “Grey’s.”

The problem is the plot. The “reasonable doubt” referred to by the title is a reference to Dr. Brennan’s case, as that is all that is needed to get him off the hook for the murder. Since we are innocent until proven guilty, as long as their is no air-tight evidence, the case can be won.

The title also refers to the “doubt” in his innocence and in the relationship between Ellis
and Dr. Brennan.

Presumably, if written differently, or maybe if a different actor took upon the role of Dr. Brennan and could overcome the script, the audience could connect with
the plot.

As is stands, the tenuousness of everything that the creators were aiming for does not come across as they might have hoped. Much like a jury, it is easy to pick a side on the case, deciding if one believes Dr. Brennan is innocent.

The other aspect, the possibly budding relationship, brings up a feeling of disinterest, rather
than intrigue.

Instead of focusing on this case, the secondary plot lines seemed much more interesting. Cox’s ground-breaking character as a transgender lawyer, has a case involving a man pleading insanity due to his schizophrenia.

The professional camaraderie and competition between the lawyers lends to far more interesting writing than the romantic story line. If the series chooses not to follow Dr. Brennan’s case the entire season, there may be a chance for it to truly be great.

The tertiary characters that are new to the law firm have vastly more interesting stories than Hill’s character who left his dog outside a deli, and was dumped as a result. The writers and creators have a lot of material to work with, they just seem to prioritize the actors over the quality of their lives.

The show does not seem to posses the dark grittiness that “The Good Wife” exuded or the successful balance of soapy drama like in “Grey’s Anatomy.” “Doubt” seems to be quite doubtful of its own personality.

The pilot makes a weak case for the continuation of the show and may result in another cancellation under Heigl’s belt. It would be a shame, considering the
wonderful cast.

If the creators widen their horizon and spotlight the other stories they have created, “Doubt” could become quite a compelling legal drama. The show has the potential to win a spot among the greats like “Law and Order” or “JAG.”