Over the past ten or so years I’ve been forced through parenthood, and one of the shows that came with that was the infantile Saved by the Bell. I’ve since comforted myself that all those involved in that show suffered career oblivion and would ultimately burn in hell for their crimes against entertainment.
But I was wrong, and in a curious way I’m glad. It was part way through Raising the Bar that the face of public defence lawyer Jerry Kellerman suddenly rang its own bell in my sub-conscious. The actor in question is Mark-Paul Grosselaar, the same unbelievably smug Zack Morris from Saved by the Bell, and you might not actually believe me, but in this he can act! No, really, he’s good. However implausible I’d have found saying that a week ago, it’s true. I missed him in NYPD Blue, so I don’t know if he demonstrated these abilities then, but he’s using them now.
But there might be mitigating circumstances. Here he’s actually got some really high calibre people stood off-camera making him look good, because this is yet another courtroom drama from the stiletto-like pen of Steve Bochco. And just to prove nepotism isn’t a lost art, the pilot episode is directed ably by his son, Jesse Bochco.
Based on the first episode this isn’t exactly Murder One quality material, but it’s actually quite edgy in places and takes delight in exploring the motivation of characters rather than what they just do or say.
In the first story Kellerman locks horns with the certifiable Judge Judy Kessler, played by Jane Kaczmarek, and ends up in prison with his client for his troubles. Yes, that’s the same women who played Malcolm in the Middle’s mother! Is there some sort of theme developing here? Actually no, because all the other actors have been culled from grown up TV, thankfully. They include Gloria Reuben (ER), Currie Graham (Desperate Housewives) and J. August Richards (Angel).
As with other Bochco outings, Raising the Bar has that slightly unstable feeling, where you’re not entirely sure where it’s going or what’s around the next corner. I like this type of TV, because many shows take predictability to new levels these days.
In a typical Bochco twist after the conclusion of the main story we’re presented with vital pieces of information about the characters that entirely alter our perception of them. It’s divisive, but it made me want to see episode two despite the obviousness of his manipulation.
I’m not predicting a Perry Mason run for Raising the Bar, but it’s sufficiently different for it to establish an audience if the writing quality remains consistent.
Given the pilot shows that have appeared so far, the hit rate seems unbelievably high. But I’m sure the new pilot for Knight Rider will bring me down to earth when that materialises.