Pilot Script Review of All Rise
Previously known as Courthouse, All Rise was written by Canadian actor, writer and producer Greg Spottiswood, who created the crime drama King and the medical drama Remedy in his home country. For his first US based project, he's trying his hand at a legal drama. Joining him as both pilot director and executive producer is Michael M. Robin, whose credits include LA Law, NYPD Blue, The Closer and its spin-off Major Crimes. This project also happens to be CBS's only drama pilot not produced or co-produced in-house this year -- it's a Warner Bros. Television production. On the surface that would seem to be a handicap, but it could be a blessing instead, as CBS may not want to signal they're not open to outside studios anymore, and may be compelled to pick it up as a proof.
WRITTEN BY: Greg Spottiswood
DRAFT DATE: 2nd Network Draft 1/14/19
PAGE COUNT: 61 pages
SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: LOLA LAWSON (40s) has just become LA County’s newest Superior Court Judge when she walks into the wrong courtroom and sees a defendant, Daphne, with no pants. She chides the bailiff for it and he whips out his gun and aims to shoot the judge but misses and he is instead shot by a young bailiff, LUKE WEILAND (20s). Flash forward two weeks – Lola’s long time prosecutor friend MARK COLLINS (30s) is excited for Lola’s new gig but will miss working with her. Mark is on the case of a stereo theft when Robbie, the accused, decides to defend himself and calls on Mark as a witness. While he's on the stand, Robbie discloses that Mark’s father is in the mafia. EMILY LOPEZ-BERRARO (30s) is a public defender representing Daphne, who's now on trial for a house robbery. This is Lola’s first case as a judge, and they discover that Daphne is pregnant and while she claims she didn’t commit the crime, she's readily taking a deal for two years in prison. Lola suspects something odd and decides to bring the case to trial, against the advice of her experienced assistant SHERRI TURKLE (40s). Luke notices that one of the evidence photos was tampered with and Emily lets Lola know that veteran and highly-regarded LAPD detective, Jackie Leyland, may have falsified evidence. The LAPD sends a clear message that Lola should not meddle with detective Jackie, and Sherri warns Lola that her duty is to give Daphne justice while not burning bridges with the LAPD. Meanwhile, Emily’s ex-husband Mike throws a carburetor into her home, which has Lola extremely concerned...
COMMENTS: There's been a resurgence of the legal drama this development season, with at least one project ordered to pilot at every network and most considered likely series orders. Some are legal dramas with a twist, like Sisters at FOX (read my review) or For Life at ABC, while others are betting on a more classical format like Bluff City Law at NBC and All Rise at CBS. It's hard to tell what viewers want, and the successive flops of Law & Order True Crime, For The People and The Fix are not encouraging. The Good Wife's brilliance may still be casting a long shadow on every wannabe, while David E. Kelley's catalog of hit series (The Practice, Ally McBeal, Boston Legal) are still the be-all and end-all. Per CBS's official description, All Rise aspires to "pull back the curtain on the court system" by telling the stories about all the people working at a courthouse -- from judges, assistants, district attorneys and public defenders to bailiffs, clerks, cops and jurors.
The key here is the characters. It's an ensemble but with a clear main heroine in Lola Lawson, who's like a more sane version of How To Get Away With Murder's Annalise Keating. Over the course of her impressive career as a Deputy District Attorney, Lola was known to be independent, formidable and, at times, wildly impulsive. As a newly appointed judge, she suddenly has more power, but instead of stting back on the bench like many of her peers, she leans in and immediately challenges expectations of what a judge should be. She also happens to be black. (And a black woman who isn't Gayle King leading a CBS show would be truly revolutionary.) The curtain on her personal life hasn't yet been pulled back much -- we know she has a husband, but he never appears on screen. The same is true of the other characters. We're not given a clear reading of who they are and what we should think about them, and I actually found tht refreshing. If the series gets picked up, there will be time to explore their personal lives and motivations in a more nuanced and plot-appropriate way than a pilot can provide..
Judge Judith played by CSI veteran Marg Helgenberger is in only two or three scenes but it's enough to love her already. One of the first female judges in California, she was originally a progressive voice from the bench, but over time she has become an entrenched member of the judicial establishment. As Supervising Judge, Judith is a powerful and influential figure who oversees Lola’s transition to the bench — and through their relationship, she's rediscovering her passion for justice. The birth of this friendship is a pleasure to witness. There's real potential here, as there is with Lola and Sherri, another pair that's exciting but in a different way. Sherri is Lola’s Judicial Assistant, or "The Gatekeeper." She controls the schedule, the witness lists, the flow of paperwork — everything. She can make defendants sit in the lockup and wait all day for the next appearance, or she can find a way to get them in and out before her morning coffee gets cold. Efficient, pragmatic and armed with wickedly dry sense of humor, Sherri isn’t thrilled she has to “train” Lola since she's a rookie judge. Other notable characters are Emily Lopez, a tough and determined public defender who's undaunted in her efforts to prove her clients’ innocence; and Sara, an optimistic court reporter who has surprising hidden talents. A close friend to Emily, she hosts the Courthouse poker games and is a reliable source for gossip and courthouse intel. As you can see, All Rise is female-fueled and alone will make it stand out.
There are men in All Rise, and they're equally interesting, they're just a bit more in the background. There's Luke -- wholesome, generous and hardworking, he's bailiff by day and law student by night, determined to move up in the world by becoming a lawyer. He and Emily gow close over the course of the pilot, and it would seem a love story is in the works. Which would cause problems, since she's married. Mark is the male lead of the ensemble. He's a roguish, highly successful Deputy District Attorney whose best friend and colleague is no other than our dear Lola. Never great with boundaries, Mark struggles with the personal and professional changes in their relationship. Is he in love with her? Perhaps, but don't expect them to make out in the pilot, or even in the first few episodes. Though it sound like the makings for a soapy Shonda Rhimes workplace drama, it isn't. All Rise is character-driven, but the legal drama always comes first. There's a lot of humor though, and a few eccentricities here and there. It can be very serious and moving in one scene, and light fun right after. Maybe they're trying to fit in with CBS's proven procedural format first, with the hope of taking a more serialized turn later on.
FINAL RECOMMENDATION: All Rise is a diverse and colorful legal drama that could be described as a non-soapy, non-twisted version of ABC's How To Get Away With Murder. It manages to stay efficient and fun while being more conventional. That's probably how every new CBS show should look and feel. That being said, with a cast of mostly fresh faces, it may prove difficult to get viewers to take it for a test run. There's a lot of work ahead for CBS's marketing team if it gets picked up.
OVERALL PROJECT SCORE:
[ ] PASS
[ ] RECOMMEND
BEST FIT: If CBS wants to rejuvenate their Monday line-up, All Rise might be one solution.