Katherine Heigl (top) always looks good dressed in angst, but once again with the new CBS drama Doubt, the question is whether that can sustain a winning TV show.
The odds do improve because Doubt, which premieres Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET, surrounds her with a fine supporting cast, led by Elliot Gould, Laverne Cox, and Dule Hill.
Heigl plays Sadie Ellis, a high-powered, Type A Manhattan defense lawyer who repeatedly declares in the first episode that her obsession is justice for the underdog.
Hill (right, with Heigl) plays Albert Cobb, her professional partner. They’re besties, but not sweeties, and they both spend so much time buried in work that actual potential love interests eventually throw up their hands and bail.
As we join the story, however, that may be changing. While Albert’s fiancé has just dumped him – something about how he left her dog tied to a parking meter after he stopped for coffee that morning – Sadie may have just started fishing in poisonous romantic waters.
She has developed feelings, as they say, for a client who is about to go on trial for allegedly killing his teenage girlfriend 24 years earlier.
The client, Billy Brennan (Steven Pasquale, below, with Heigl), is a senator’s son, scion of a wealthy, influential and entitled family. Billy is a wealthy and successful pediatrician, or at least he was until he was arrested for a murder of which he thought he’d been cleared more than two decades earlier.
After working on his case for four months, Sadie has acknowledged she feels an attraction. So has he. Bad move all around, especially since we don’t know all the facts of the case yet. But there you go.
As this suggests, Doubt breaks a bit from the standard CBS lawyer show. It seems to be less a procedural, where a different case gets settled every week, than an ongoing drama. Or melodrama.
The Sadie-and-Bill part, at least, sounds more like a movie or maybe a miniseries than an ongoing story.
That’s where the supporting players can help.
Besides Hill, Cox plays Cameron Wirth, a loud, smart and sarcastic transgender attorney who has a friendly and cautious relationship with Sadie. She’s an engaging character who could definitely carry some storylines.
Veteran Gould (below) plays the law firm’s leader, Isaiah Roth, who’s an old-school lefty. He’s been defending underdogs, apparently including some serious radicals, for decades, and all the other lawyers want to be able to say someday that they were like him.
While he’s not a lavish praise kind of fellow, he cares about his people, and there’s great potential here for a snapshot of an Old Lion in Autumn. Whether Doubt wants to go in that direction is anyone’s guess, but Gould has put everything in place for it.
Doubt could, in fact, do some socio-political exploration from several angles, and that would definitely set it apart from almost everything else in prime-time.
So after it spends much of the first episode hinting at this ill-advised central romance, it will be instructive to see how it integrates other elements.
On the other hand, given how Sadie rides her bike to work through the streets of Manhattan – the closest parallel might be a 1950s teenage hot-rodder – Doubt also could end almost any minute.