Aired on: NBC
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
John Grisham is a very good writer. I have read five of his novels and found them highly enjoyable. Most of them feature the same type of main character - someone who has decided to make his/her profession in law, has fought their way through law school without much help from anyone, who gets themselves in way over their heads and eventually their high moral principles help them find a way out of a very stick situation. Yet, for some reason, nobody can seem to translate these novels properly into film. The closest and best they ever got was The Rainmaker.
Having first read the novel, I had been excited to see The Firm when it appeared in theaters starring Tom Cruise. Many people seemed to like the film, but folks who read the novel in my circle of friends agreed with me - the movie was a bomb. So when the NBC network announced that The Firm was going to be a new dramatic series in their mid-season lineup, I was none too excited. And yet, for the sake of our readers, I decided to check the show out when it aired on NBC on January 8, 2012.
In the novel, Mitchell McDeere was an ambitious attorney fresh out of Harvard Law School who signs up with a premiere law firm only to discover that, in addition to its unethical billing practices, actually represents members in a Chicago organized crime family. McDeere becomes a Federal whistleblower and has to fight for his life to bring down “the firm.” A short time after the novel, the McDeere family discover that a hit has been placed on them by the organized crime family represented by the firm. Remembering how well the Feds protected them in the past, Mitch does not want to enter the witness protection program at first, but is persuaded by his wife’s announcement that she is pregnant.
The television series begins a decade later. The Chicago mob boss has died and Mitchell (Josh Lucas) and his family have left the witness protection program. Mitchell’s wife (Molly Parker) has gone back to teaching in the same school that her daughter (Natasha Calis) presently attends. Mitch has started his own law practice and hired on his brother Ray (Callum Keith Rennie) as a private investigator and his girlfriend (Juliette Lewis) as his receptionist. Although slightly strapped for cash, things are going well for the McDeere’s until an old friend from the witness protection program informs Mitch that the mob may not be done with the McDeere’s. Apparently, the mob boss had a son and junior has just come of age, with a score to settle for his old man.
In addition to this woe, comes new ones. One of Mitch’s appointed criminal clients is a fifteen-year-old murderer. Another of Mitch’s clients is dying from a faulty stent placed in her heart and instead of settling with his client, the company that manufactured the stent wants to go to court with the case. Mitch doesn’t have the kind of resources that this sort of case will take. Enter a basketball buddy (Shaun Majumder) with an offer - his firm has everything: a top client base, money, resources and attorneys in every field available, except criminal law. They offer to take Mitch on as a partner, but can Mitch ever trust another firm again? Judging by the chase scene at the beginning of the show that supposedly takes place six weeks later, I think not.
Despite my trepidation at having to watch this premiere episode, I found that I actually liked The Firm. Mr. McDeere has gotten himself in over his head again, but this time, just as in the novel, I found myself rooting for him. In the movie, I actually wanted the mob to catch him. The story is interesting enough to hold my attention and Mitch’s first case is quite a shocker in more ways than one.
The actors are believable in their roles and the story doesn’t seem horribly contrived. What did they do right this time? Maybe it’s the fact that John Grisham is actually consulting on this series that has it on the right path. Either way, I thoroughly enjoyed the premiere episode of The Firm and can’t wait to see the next one, airing every Thursday at 10pm EST.