First Impressions

Raising the Bar

Aired on: TNT

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            When you think of the name Steven Bochco, you think of award-winning television shows like Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, NYPD Blue, Doogie Howser, Murder One and more.  The name even brings to mind gritty television drama that the viewing audience wasn’t ready to see like Brooklyn South.  A fan of many a Steven Bochco production, I was curious to see his latest creation for TNT entitled Raising the Bar.  The show previewed on Monday, September 1, 2008 at 10PM EST after my favorite TNT series, The Closer.  I figured why not keep the TV on another hour and check out the new drama.

            Raising the Bar is a legal drama revolving around former law school classmates that reunite in a New York City courtroom while taking on rival clients.  The premise allows for the viewer to see various angles in each legal proceeding – the defense attorney’s view, the prosecutor’s view, and that of the judge.  In the series opener, we meet Defense Attorney Jerry Kellerman (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), a man with a firm belief in what is right and a brash demeanor.  Kellerman’s client is a man wrongly accused of rape.  Unfortunately, Kellerman’s biggest adversary is not the lawyer opposing him, but the judge he faces, Judge Trudy Kessler (Jane Kaczmarek).  Kellerman’s outspoken behavior in the courtroom causes him to be charged with contempt of court and lands him in a jail cell along with his client. 

            As the pilot episode continues, new evidence emerges in the District Attorney’s office proving Kellerman’s client’s innocence.  However, the District Attorney chooses to ignore this evidence in preference of the win Judge Kessler is about to hand him.  Can Kellerman’s friends in the District Attorney’s office and in the judge’s own chambers convince Judge Kessler of his client’s innocence?

            My apologies, Mr. Bochco, but haven’t we seen this before?  Okay, so maybe we haven’t seen it in quite such an unbelievable fashion, but this show offers nothing really new.  Knowing how large the New York City District Attorney’s office and the Public Defenders office truly are, I find it hard to believe that the same former law school students would find themselves arguing over cases that frequently.  And the idea that a judge can be swayed by the “attending to” of another former law school buddy…well, that’s going a bit too far in my book.  I can only hope that there is no possible truth to that sort of scenario.o.

            Although I did enjoy seeing Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Gloria Reuben had found new series after stints on NYPD Blue and ER respectively, for some reason, I could only tender respect for Gloria Reuben’s character as Gosselaar’s boss, Rosalind Whitman.  It would have been nice to see J. August Richards in another dramatic role with a tad more substance than being a vampire slayer/detective with special skills, however, Richards appears in only a couple of scenes in the pilot episode of Raising the Bar.  Jane Kaczmarek’s character is extremely annoying and although I know that there are judges out there who can be as quirky as her character acts, I simply found her to be unbelievable in the role.

            Knowing Steven Bochco’s record in dramatic television productions, I was hoping for a much grittier show about the legal system.  Unfortunately, in my opinion, Raising the Bar falls far short of what I had hoped for.  Well, there’s one more television show I don’t have to worry about recording – my VCR should be very relieved.


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