Canterbury's Law

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8-9 p.m. Monday, March 10
Fox

It's one thing to be beset by demons, but Elizabeth Canterbury has so many crushing problems that she makes Job look like a whiner.

Even so, Julianna Margulies -- also listed as a producer -- is convincing as a lawyer whose only true solace is her work. Still, she lives under a black cloud that threatens to burst at any moment and overwhelm the show. Beneath that cloud, though, lives a cutting-edge character who blends a rough-and-tumble style outside the courtroom with a polished but assertive femininity once the trial begins.

It would have been interesting to see what Elizabeth was like four years earlier, just before her young son was abducted when she momentarily looked away. Then came the corrosion of her marriage to law professor Matt Furey (Aidan Quinn), a predisposition to drink and an emotionally empty affair with her friend, Frank Angstrom (James McCaffrey), a helpful private investigator.

Now, her personal emotions are in lockdown, leaving only her Providence, R.I., law practice to slake her passions. In this, she is assisted by Russell Krauss (Ben Shenkman), a former lawyer in the attorney general's office whose ethical streak ran counter to the philosophy of his boss, Zach Williams, played with malicious cunning by Terry Kinney. Others in the Canterbury office are legal assistants Chester Grant (Keith Robinson), a straight arrow, and spunky Molly McConnell (Trieste Kelly Dunn).

In the opener, Canterbury's client has been framed for abducting and killing the adolescent son of a prominent family. The teleplay, from creator Dave Erickson, wastes no time letting us know that the real villain is the boy's abusive father but the challenge will be proving it, or even getting the bully to take the stand.

Canterbury practices law like she graduated from the University of Pellicano. She gets her investigator friend to tap into a juror's opinion and then suborns perjury -- and that's just in the pilot. There's no indication that she will reform anytime soon. But if Canterbury is no Perry Mason, her adversary, Williams, is no well-mannered Hamilton Burger. True, Williams might consistently lose but he, too, is not above gaming the system.

The premiere, directed by Mike Figgis, is a vision of darkness, as somber and chilly in parts as his "Leaving Las Vegas." Another episode to be shown later, also sent to reviewers, has a more balanced tone and is more inviting. Equally promising, the Krauss character has grown from being a cautious nebbish to assuming a vital role in the story.

CANTERBURY'S LAW
Fox
Apostle in association with Sony Pictures Television
Credits:
Executive producers: Denis Leary, Jim Serpico, Mike Figgis
Co-executive producer/creator/teleplay: Dave Erickson
Supervising producer: Tom Selletti
Consulting producer: Kerry Orent
Producer: Julianna Margulies
Produced by: Don Kurt
Co-producer: Katie O'Hara
Director: Mike Figgis
Director of photography: Mott Hupfel
Production designer: Chris Shriver
Editors: Sloane Klevin, Philip Neel
Music: Danny Lux
Set designer: Alexandra Mazur
Casting: Julie Tucker
Cast:
Elizabeth Canterbury: Julianna Margulies
Molly McConnell: Trieste Kelly Dunn
Russell Krauss: Ben Shenkman
Chester Grant: Keith Robinson
Matt Furey: Aidan Quinn
Deputy Attorney General Zach Williams: Terry Kinney
Frank Angstrom: James McCaffrey
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