Season 1, Episode 1
Date of airing: September 23, 2019 (CBS)
Nielsen ratings information: 6.030 million viewers, 3.9/7 in Households, 0.7/3 with Adults 18-49, 0.4/2 with Adults 18-34, 1.2/4 with Adults 25-54
Welcome to California, where interesting crime is done under a blue sky, and where the justice system is as hip as possible, because in this television drama, the judges are not only attractive, but also know how to articulate themselves in the twenty-first century. In this television show, the attorneys are even more attractive and they better be friends or otherwise writers can’t create an opportunity for certain attorneys or bailiffs to maybe go on a date and turning ALL RISE into a dramedy in the vein of GREY’S ANATOMY, which this show essentially is. We’ve had a lot of “Grey’s Anatomy in [insert genre or location],” with two particular shows being considered my favorites: “Grey’s Anatomy in Space,” which aired on ABC in the Summer of 2009 under the title DEFYING GRAVITY, and “Grey’s Anatomy in Afghanistan,” which in 2011 turned out to be an overlooked and sadly cancelled medical drama from Canada titled COMBAT HOSPITAL, which starred Michelle Borth, whom I miss leading a television drama. ALL RISE is essentially “Grey’s Anatomy in a court room,” although I’m not even sure CBS was shooting for that tagline, since it’s usually the ABC shows that get promoted like this (and the short-lived and quickly cancelled legal dramedy THE DEEP END may already have had that tagline). Because what is CBS doing with a light and hip drama with attractive people whose characters are most likely figuring out how to date in a few episodes from now? Is this the network’s attempt at creating a television show in the legal drama genre that is ready for the millennial audience?
The first five minutes and fifty seconds were weird as hell, but they showed that ALL RISE won’t be the legal drama CBS probably hoped to find their next THE GOOD WIFE with, while I was able to bury my hopes of getting a show in the vein of JUDGING AMY – a courtroom drama with a Judge who takes her job seriously, but also as this herculean task it is, because there is no way that Lola Carmichael was actually ready for her first day on the Judge’s bench and that she was able to handle the case load she took over from the other Judge who decided to retire after this weird-as-hell shooting out of nowhere which opened this show. There is no way that ALL RISE ever thought about depicting a real-life Californian court room with this show, which means the story of Lola Carmichael as one of the very few women of color in the courtroom is aa fantasy story, and the only times the writers can think about grounding the show is when Lola mentions the exact fact that the justice system in California does not look like her, or the three non-white people she pointed out to Mark, her best friend and former colleague and most likely romantic interest as soon as the show has established itself as a potentially long-running drama on CBS. ALL RISE is not a legal drama that makes use of the story of Judges, attorneys and even bailiffs, and it’s definitely not a legal drama trying to emulate the tension and character depth that Robert and Michelle King made a success out of starting in 2009. ALL RISE is a pop show with characters who are well-versed in snappy dialogue and knowledge of what they’re doing, even when the story dictates that they don’t know what they’re doing. ALL RISE is a show that decided to not make use of tension and thrill, or otherwise the first five minutes and fifty seconds would have been a bigger back story throughout the entire episode, and not be used as a setup for Lola to be introduced to Daphne, the center of the stand-alone story.
So what remains after 43 minutes — were the characters able to push the boundaries of the genre they have been placed in, or have they been condemned to always be part of their own little GREY’S ANATOMY show, because writers still think that emulating that formula is bound to succeed? The answer to the first part of the question is a definite “No” and I guess we will have to see if the second part will ring true, although I probably won’t know the answer to it, since I already decided to not pick up the show after this episode. Fact is that the characters haven’t gotten a lot of depth, let alone reason to distinguish themselves from the rest of television. Lola, as rare as she is in this particular fictional court system, is like any other fictional progressive Judge who faces corruption and criticism from the get-go and has to make decisions whether to be a fighter for the innocent or be part of the court system that celebrates the criminals. THE GOOD WIFE never went there because it already had a different political storyline to follow up on, and JUDGING AMY did not go there because the show was a family drama first and foremost, and setting Amy Brenneman’s character into the juvenile court was a way to tone down anything that could have been turned into a crime procedural, like this episode did when Luke realized the discrepancies in the picture of the red shoe and decided to go investigating with Emily, who is most definitely his love interest. The characters could easily be on an ABC dramedy show and the storytelling is stuck midway through the first decade of this millennium, because network executives and some writers still believe that GREY’S ANATOMY needs emulating.
Having a CBS drama with a diverse cast, especially with an African-American lead, is excellent though. So often we were bitching and moaning about how CBS’s pilot season was white all the way, so it comes to a biota a surprise that ALL RISE delivers a cast that has more than just one inclusive person in it, let alone attempts to create a story that involves differences and difficulties minority people come across. At the end of the day though, ALL RISE is like most other of legal dramas with attorneys who like to solve crimes before the police ever does. It’s just another show in which the police force is being depicted as lazy, criminal or corrupt (see the prosecution’s attempt at hiding the fact that the shoe was found at a different spot). The show could be set at a prestige Californian law firm and it would change absolutely nothing in its premise, as the writers somehow managed to make Lola not the central character of this episode. Her first day as a Judge wasn’t even of note in this story.