'Conviction': TV Review

ABC/Bob D'Amico
Hayley Atwell in ABC's 'Conviction'
Look elsewhere.
10/3/2016

How to waste Hayley Atwell? Put her in this terrible ABC show about a former first daughter who takes a job that entails trying to overturn wrongful convictions.

People in the broadcast television business have heard — and greenlighted — so many patently stupid ideas through the years it's as if they are inured to even the blandest, most transparently terrible copy of previously terrible ideas. It's a special kind of industry ouroboros of insipidness.

Which brings us to ABC's Conviction, a law procedural so paint-by-numbers it's like everybody gave up halfway through and added terrible colors out of boredom.

And the really sad exclamation point here is that it stars the wonderful Hayley Atwell who was on a good ABC show, Agent Carter, that never found traction (despite the Marvel imprimatur). So apparently everyone thought it would be a good idea to give her some other star vehicle but neglected to make it worth her talent, which is wasted and unrecognizable here as she spouts terrible dialogue.

Atwell won't be the first British actor to come here looking for some of that super green American TV money only to be shackled with something dimwitted (see: Janet Montgomery, Made In Jersey, etc., etc., etc.)

Atwell will one day find something worthy of her talents that actually gives her the aforementioned American payday or she will continue to be a fantastic actress across the pond doing parts that don't call for her to, well, be whatever unbelievable thing she is in Conviction.

Oh, right, a lawyer named Hayes Morrison (they might as well have just used Hayley Atwell as a name). A daughter of a former American president whose mother is now running for Senate, Hayes is apparently some kind of party girl who is perhaps acting out because of her past. Nothing's really clear, other than the fact that it's clearly asinine.

The series opens with her in jail — busted for cocaine. She's bailed out and the arrest is covered up because her former nemesis (and maybe lover — what?) is the New York District Attorney and he is appointing her, immediately, head of the dubiously named Conviction Integrity Unity (CIU) as a favor to Hayes' mother, who will apparently turn her political power toward the district attorney when he runs for office.

If you hadn't noticed, all of that is stupid.

In fact, it's maddeningly dumb — as is the rest of the show, because it treats viewers like sheep who will watch a glossy ABC legal drama masquerading as a frothy soap and not ask any questions in the process. Like for instance, why the newly minted Conviction Integrity Unit has a policy of using only five days (five days!) to take on cases where the convicted person in question might actually be innocent. In the pilot, Hayes and her team debate which of several cases to take, settle on one, investigate the crime, run around in different directions for a couple of days, overturn it and set the wrongfully jailed man free — in five days. Luckily it didn't spill over into the weekend or too bad, on to another case.

Who said yes to this idea?

Conviction was co-created by Liz Friedman (who wrote a Jessica Jones episode and an Orange Is the New Black episode and some Elementary episodes but is not getting it done here) and director Liz Friedlander. They owe Atwell an apology because Conviction just makes her look bad at playing the allegedly bad girl. There's some hooey about the job she's blackmailed into doing being perfect "minus the freedom to go bra-less and read Infinite Jest." There's a scene where she starts to strip in front of her co-workers while trying on a dress and says, "Like you didn't see the paparazzi shot of me on that nude beach in Belize." Trying on said dresses she says, "I look like Joe Pesci in this," and, of another, "This color makes me look like I have HPV."

That's bad writing, folks.

It doesn't help that the plot of the pilot is embarrassingly easy to figure out, has multiple dumb scenes and ends with what is supposed to be both an uplifting and empowering scene that only elicits winces.

Let this be said with conviction: Don't waste your time here.

Cast: Hayley Atwell, Eddie Cahill, Shawn Ashmore, Merrin Dungey, Emily Kinney, Manny Montana
Created by: Liz Friedman, Liz Friedlander
Premieres: Monday, 10 p.m. ET/PT, ABC

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