Conviction: The Complete Series
Universal // Unrated // $59.98 // August 22, 2006
Review by Jeffrey Robinson | posted August 29, 2006
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Graphical Version

The Complete Series

The 2006 NBC television series Conviction aired in March 2006 and finished in May 2006. The series had a meager thirteen episodes to its credit and was not renewed for an additional season. The series comes from creator and executive producer Dick Wolf, who has made a huge name for himself by being the creative mind behind the very popular crime dramas Law & Order, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and Law & Order: Trial By Jury. Wolf's latest television enterprise is Conviction, which is set in the same world as the Law & Order series, but takes a much different approach in its format and content as an attempt to gain the attention of a younger audience. The series is based on a group of young assistant district attorneys who are overworked. The show focuses on their lives as they struggle their maddening cases, hardships, and personal lives. In effect, the series is about the characters and not the criminals and cases. There is plenty of drama surrounding them as they juggle their lives from the personal and professional perspectives.

Headlining the cast is a familiar face, Stephanie March. March reprises her Law & Order: Special Victims Unit role of ADA Alexandra Cabot. Cabot served as the Special Victims Unit's ADA from the beginning of season two to midway season five. In the episode "Loss", Cabot was forced into witness protection after the Columbia drug cartel made an attempt on her life. Cabot made another appearance in the season six episode "Ghost" that tied into her original disappearance. At the end of the episode, she went back into hiding. Years later, Cabot returns from witness protection in Conviction (no explanation about her return) as the Bureau Chief in charge a group of brash, yet talented and overtaxed ADAs.

Directly under Cabot is Jim Steele (Anson Mount). He is the Deputy District Attorney who is responsible for the young ADAs. His duties also take him into the courtroom more often than not. He is a good guy and has a personal relationship with one of the ADAs. Jessica Rossi (Milena Govich) is the young ADA involved with Steele on more than a professional basis. She is a determined ADA willing to do what is necessary to get the job done. Billy Desmond (J. August Richards) is a smart, career-motivated ADA. He has a perfect record in court and he wants to keep it that way.

Nick Potter (Jordan Bridges) is the new addition to the office of young ADAs. In the series pilot, he begins his first day. He is an average law student from NYU who spent the last year at one of the top law firms earning a six figure salary. He comes to the DA's office to because he wants to try cases. Christina Finn (Julianne Nicholson) is a two year veteran with little experience in litigation. She is unsure of her abilities, but over the course of the season becomes a shining star. Lastly is Brian Peluso (Eric Balfour), a womanizer and gambler. He is a good looking guy who enjoys having fun, but he is also dedicated to his work.

All in all, Conviction has an interesting and somewhat diverse set of characters. Some of whom you will like and others you won't. In my case, I tended towards the latter. For the most part, the characters are generic. I liked a couple of the characters, Rossi and Steele, from the start. They are strong in their roles. Finn started off as a weak character, but as she developed as an ADA and person, she became a much better character. Both Rossi (Govich) and Finn (Nicholson) will be seen in the near future with other Dick Wolf productions. Govich will make a jump into the original Law & Order series in its seventeenth season as detective Nina Cassady. She replaces Dennis Farina. Nicholson joins the cast of Law & Order: Criminal Intent in season six as detective Megan Wheeler. She replaces Annabella Sciorra. It will be interesting to see both Govich and Nicholson as cops instead of lawyers.

The unfortunate news is the characters are what drive this series, and not having a large batch of really strong and interesting characters made Conviction somewhat unappealing. Perhaps unappealing is a bit strong, as the series has merit and the occasionally interesting development, but in the end it leaves you with little and you most likely will not care what happens to the cast next. In short, Conviction is entertaining enough for a single watch, but has little to keep you coming back for more.

The series begins with the episode "Pilot", and kudos to the writers and crew for putting it together. While the series pilot episode does not prove to be a gripping and intense introduction to Conviction, it still handled the introduction of its cast well. With a fairly large number of characters to focus on, it does a fine job at giving you a chance to get to know them and understand who they are and what they are about. The major plotline is about a drug smuggling case, a witness who is afraid to testify, and the murder of deputy district attorney Mike Randolph (Elias Koteas). It is a shame Koteas' role in series had to end in the pilot episode, because he made a very convincing district attorney.

The remaining episodes continue to focus on the characters and a little about the cases they are involved in. Some of the notable storylines includes the love affair between Rossi and Steele, which becomes public knowledge in the episode "Deliverance". The matter is slightly complicated with some heat between Cabot and Steele in "Savasana". Another interesting storyline comes from the two-part series finale "180.80 (2)" and "Hostage", where a routine murder trial turns into a hostage situation when the accused killers take control of the courtroom and hold some of the young ADAs as hostages. For the most part, the other storylines fail to be really appealing. Subplots like Potter dealing with the emotional aftermath of being beaten and mugged, Peluso deciding to move in his with cheating girlfriend, and Desmond fighting to keep his perfect track record intact offer very little intrigue. In the overall scheme of things, it makes for some dull material.

Overall, Conviction offers a character oriented drama about the professional and personal lives of several young New York ADAs with little experience and demanding cases. The drama that comes from the situations they commonly find themselves in can be entertaining, but more often than not tend to be mildly interesting or lackluster. Conviction has little to pull you in and keep you wanting more, but has enough drama to make for a decent watch.

Episode Guide
1. Pilot
2. Denial
3. Breakup
4. Indebted
5. Savasana
6. Madness
7. True Love
8. Downhill
9. The Wall
10. Deliverance
11. Indiscretion
12. 180.80 (1)
13. Hostage (2)

The DVD

Video:
The video in this release is given in an anamorphic 1.78:1 ratio widescreen color format. The picture quality is quite good. It suffers from a slight grain, but detail remains to be sharp and clear. However, there are moments when the picture suffers compression artifacts and hints of edge enhancement. This is most noticeable during the darker scenes. Overall it is a great looking picture.

Audio:
The audio track supplied with release is English 5.1 Dolby digital stereo sound. The sound quality is good, the track is pretty clean and spoken dialogue is easily heard. Like most TV on DVD releases it is fairly flat and there is not much to it, but it fits the presentation well. This release also comes with subtitles in English and supports closed captioning.

Extras:
For special features, there are seven profiles included. The profiles are interviews with cast members Stephanie March, Anson Mount, Julianne Nicholson, J. August Richards, Eric Balfour, Jordan Bridges, and Milena Govich talking about their respective characters and the series. The total runtime is shy of sixteen minutes. Overall, the profiles are somewhat interesting, but unless you really liked the series learning about the actor's and actress's opinions probably won't tickle you pink.

Final Thoughts:
Early this year when Conviction made its television debut, I missed it. Now that I have watched all thirteen episodes the series has to offer, I can say I am not a huge fan. While I love Dick Wolf's other productions, e.g. the Law & Order series, Conviction takes a completely different approach and format as a character oriented drama. I have nothing against this style, but how Conviction fares is something I am against. The series puts together an ensemble of young and attractive actors/actresses as its cast. The appeal comes from the drama that results from their professional and personal lives, which more often than not clash with each other. The problem is how these characters are projected and how they deal with these situations. For the most part, the characters tend to be either mildly interesting or completely lackluster. In the end, it makes for some decent programming that you might want to give a chance. Bottom line, Conviction: The Complete Series is worth renting if you enjoy character oriented dramas, but does not standup enough as a whole to warrant purchasing.



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