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Netflix's The Lincoln Lawyer excels at feeling like old-fashioned network TV from the 1970s and 1980s

  • "The 10-part Netflix original series The Lincoln Lawyer is set in the present day and the title character is indeed an attorney, but it has the comfort-viewing vibe of the classic hourlong cop and private-eye dramas of the 1970s and 1980s, e.g., The Rockford Files, McCloud, Magnum, P.I. and Baretta,” says Richard Roeper. "It contains many of the familiar elements and characters from those shows, including a likable anti-hero, the traditional authority figures who are always throwing up obstacles, the rogue sidekick and a rotating gallery of colorful suspects. It’s Netflix, but it feels like old-fashioned network TV—and that’s probably no coincidence, given the showrunner is the prolific David E. Kelley, whose credits include Boston Public, Ally McBeal, Picket Fences, Chicago Hope, The Practice, Big Sky and we’re just getting warmed up. Based on the second of Michael Connelly’s five Lincoln Lawyer novels (the first was made it into a 2011 feature film starring Matthew McConaughey), this is a slick, easily digested and well-acted legal thriller featuring an outstanding ensemble cast and a juicy, lurid murder mystery that keeps us guessing throughout—not that we can’t see some of the twists coming a mile down the road."

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    • The Lincoln Lawyer feels incredibly dated: "Netflix’s The Lincoln Lawyer will scratch the itch for anyone unexplainably hankering for a tedious, low-stakes legal drama. Created by David E. Kelley, who plans to wring out his affinity for the genre to no end, it’s meant to be reminiscent of his early work like The Practice or Ally McBeal," says Saloni Gajjar. "Except in 2022, it just feels incredibly dated, like it should’ve aired on network TV in the aughts. The show’s diverse main lead aside, it offers nothing fresh or incisive. It’s not Boston Legal-level fun or entertaining, nor does it boast a seriously spectacular performance like Billy Bob Thornton in Goliath. To confirm: Those examples above are also Kelley-helmed legal dramas. And you can only beat that drum so many times before it comes crashing down with a thud."
    • The Lincoln Lawyer is a CBS series on Netflix: "The Lincoln Lawyer‘s roots as a CBS procedural are very much evident, particularly in the first half of the season," says Ron Hogan. "Haller bounces around from case to case while digging in where he can on the show’s central issue and his very important client. The focus on case-of-the-week fades as the show’s main plot starts to gel together, and by the end of the season, the series seems to have found a nice balance between season-long story arc case drama and the solid episodic lawyer shows that bought David Kelley a solid-gold typewriter. The show benefits greatly from the landscape of Los Angeles in those early episodes, and that dramatic landscape only heightens the tension in the latter half of the season. The Lincoln Lawyer isn’t going to break any new ground. It’s not going to be an edgy critical darling. It’s not trying to be. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel to hold up a cart. The Lincoln Lawyer is an easy-to-watch binge-streamer with solid characters inhabiting an interesting world."
    • The Lincoln Lawyer combines the best of network and streaming: "It’s even guided by an old network TV pro: David E. Kelley, known for his work on legal shows like L.A. Law, Ally McBeal, and The Practice, among others," says Jesse Hassenger. None of this is necessarily a bad thing. In fact, a lot of Netflix shows could use the discipline of old-fashioned network programming, and in that sense The Lincoln Lawyer combines the best of both worlds: a shorter season (a cable-and-streaming standard 10 episodes, rather than a network-friendly 13-to-20) with crisp, network-friendly runtimes (closer to 45 minutes than 60). But in its passable, uninspired watchability, the show hews closer to the middle of the pack, if that."
    • The Lincoln Lawyer is at least somewhat entertaining for a show with a bland central character: "It’s Netflix’s version of the sort of retro TNT drama that I only know exists because I left my television on after an NBA game; the kind of USA drama that USA stopped making when it bailed on scripted programming; a lesser incarnation of the type of algorithmic book-to-screen Amazon pipeline that brought us Reacher and Jack Ryan and Bosch — except that if The Lincoln Lawyer were on Amazon, it could have actually been the Bosch semi-spinoff," says Daniel Fienberg. "Then again, if The Lincoln Lawyer had aired on Amazon, everybody would have just compared it to creator David E. Kelley’s Goliath, a murkier, more nuanced series covering similar terrain." Fienberg adds: "If you don’t think too hard about any of it, there are some acceptable twists that push you through the second half of The Lincoln Lawyer, while the first half is dominated by a varied and photogenic use of Los Angeles locations. None of that is a substitute for a compelling title character or a consistently propulsive narrative, which happen to be key things Connelly’s fans will be hoping for."
    • The Lincoln Lawyer is the perfect average show that TV needs right now: "The meat-and-potatoes legal drama, long a stalwart of broadcast television with series like Law & Order, The Practice and How to Get Away with Murder, has come to Netflix with The Lincoln Lawyer.... a new adaptation of Michael Connelly's books created by David E. Kelley and Ted Humphrey. There's a comfort to the series, which exists in a universe with well-defined morals and beautiful people," says Kelly Lawler. "It's a slickly-acted, fast-moving, winning series that isn't overly ambitious and doesn't need to be. Its appeal comes from being something familiar done very well, and it's the kind of series Netflix should be making all the time."
    • Kelley-ready components make this iteration of The Lincoln Lawyer a bingeable, highly enthralling piece of entertainment: "Nearly every component of this legal drama—including its lovable characters, fascinating cases, gleeful fourth-wall breaks by Haller explains his strategy, whiz-bang pacing, and bright, clean cinematography—makes for easily digestible episodes, especially as Gorham and Campbell play larger roles," says Robert Daniels. "The two add dependable, workmanlike melodramatic beats to otherwise subdued characters, while the series cleverly maneuvers for an anti-police (Haller doesn’t trust them at all) bent, and openly talks about addiction and recovery. The show also has enough backstories—Lorna’s desire to return to law school, Angus’ debt to his former gang, and a case, from long ago, that continues to gnaw at Haller—to not only create a sturdy standalone season, but leave enough breadcrumbs for a possible second season."
    • The Lincoln Lawyer is warmed-over David E. Kelley: "Kelley’s belief in the inherent intrigue of the legal process helps him along; one can sense enthusiasm undergirding, say, an episode built around the jury-selection process," says Daniel D'Addario. "But others of the creator’s tricks fail him, like a tendency to lean hard on the quirkiness of bit players studded through the story, seemingly intended as a sort of comic relief that doesn’t consistently land. (Would you believe, for instance, that one of Mickey’s clients is a college student who can’t stop nude sunbathing and thinks Americans are uptight?) There’s a seeming attempt to graft on some of the zany zing of the Ally McBeal days here. And that show, as with other Kelley properties, had a dynamic lead; Garcia-Rulfo is an appealing performer, but he’s surprisingly low-key."
    • It's a modern-day Knight Rider: "Micky Haller is the Lincoln Lawyer. Why? Because he likes to work while being driven round in his Lincoln town car rather than at a desk," says Lucy Mangan. "How come? Because he hates the restrictions of an office and because characteristics are easier than character, that’s why. Did you mind when Bergerac did it? Were you ever this picky about Knight Rider? No? Well, you can get behind this car-led David E Kelley adaptation of Michael Connelly’s 2008 novel The Brass Verdict without any more questions then, can’t you?"
    • Manuel Garcia-Rulfo recalled struggling with the ethics of a defense attorney: “That was one of the things I was battling with,” he says. “I’d chat a lot with defense lawyers, and that was my model question, because I wanted to understand why you would defend somebody that you are pretty sure is guilty.”
    • Garcia-Rulfo wanted to ensure that Los Angeles' Latino life was represented: The Lincoln Lawyer role wasn't written for a specific ethnicity, so when the Mexican actor was happy "that they bet on a guy that has an accent portraying Mickey Haller." But was there cultural specificity in the scripts? "There were some, but I pushed for more," says Garcia-Rulfo. "There are some scenes where I’m eating, and sometimes the script would say, 'He’s eating at a famous hamburger place.' I said, 'Let’s have him eat some tacos instead.' Or if it said, 'He orders a bourbon,' I would say, 'No, let’s order a mezcal or a tequila.' With the language as well, I was like, 'I think he would say this line in Spanish, you know?' Everyone in the production was cool with letting me do that. They would say, 'As long as you’re not saying something bad in Spanish." (Laughs.)

    TOPICS: The Lincoln Lawyer, Netflix, David E. Kelley, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Michael Connelly




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