Tonight marks the premiere of Goliath on Amazon TV/Video. Billy Bob Thornton, a native of Bill-Clinton-"Boyhood Home" Hot Springs, Arkansas, stars as a tort lawyer, presumably our David, in the saga of a wrongful death lawsuit against big-money interests.
The story line is far from unprecedented, but my expectations are high. This show comes to us from producers David E. Kelley and Jonathan Shapiro. We have Kelley to thank for a pantheon of my most beloved TV lawyers, including Arnie Becker, Douglas Wambaugh, Ally McBeal, Alan Shore, and Denny Crane. Jonathan Shapiro has been a key writer behind some of those characters, having worked on James Spader projects from The Practice to The Blacklist.
Goliath comes at a good time, as the election cycle has heightened American angst about dysfunctional institutions. With the Supreme Court opening its new term with only eight justices, Citizens United and the role of wealth in politics looms large over the weird dynamics playing out in all three branches of government right now. When Kelley and Shapiro appeared at the American Bar Association Annual Meeting in August to talk about Goliath, they said that dysfunction in the civil litigation system would be a central theme in the new show. The trial, figurative and literal, of protagonist Billy McBride (Thornton) would expose the impact on our justice system of dramatic resource disparities between individual plaintiffs and "Goliath" corporate defendants, as well as the related, gradual extinction of our jury system. I'll paste below my tweets from that event, which convey a flavor of the presentation.
Reviews of the show so far are positive, if guarded. The consensus seems to be that the haggard lawyer fighting for justice and thereby his own redemption is a tired cliché. Yet the Kelley/Shapiro-led execution of the show and the small-screen mastery of Thornton--whose understated lead as Malvo in TV's Fargo s1 was a morbid joy--make Goliath irresistible viewing nonetheless.
I'm tied up this weekend with a couple of projects and might not be able to binge Goliath off the bat. So no spoilers!
|Kelley & Shapiro at ABA (Aug. 2016)|
My tweets from ABA Annual, Aug. 5:
#DavidEKelley, Jonathan Shapiro talk forthcoming #GoliathTVseries, will be civil justice story
- US courts are "rigged" against little guy, says
#DavidEKelley, lost touch w/jury system per deTocqueville #ABAAnnual re forthcoming #Goliath #DavidEKelley sees audience as character in legal TV, "town crier" role; sounds like #AlanShore's conscience was us #ABAAnnual #BostonLegal
#BostonLegal Scalia character married 2 men, #DavidEKelley ran into real #Scalia; Justice knew, mentioned it #ABAAnnual #gaymarriage
- Like Pres Lincoln, "Americans love law bc it's where every story can be told" :Jonathan Shapiro
- Civil parallel to "CSI effect":
#TrialAttorneys shd worry abt jurors used to high level entertainment, warns Jonathan Shapiro #ABAAnnual #BostonLegal scenes w/ #AlanShore, #DennyCrane talking for minutes can't be made in amped up Amazon TV era, says #DavidEKelley #ABAAnnual #Litigation is "methodical, grinding process" not well depicted by "speed warp machine" of TV drama, concedes #DavidEKelley #ABAAnnual #AmazonTV cuts down on sponsors' "commercial #censorship" of TV, e.g., being able to say cigs cause cancer, says #DavidEKelley #ABAAnnual