ABC's the Whole Truth is a lawyer show that's largely flown under the radar and that's a shame because it's pretty good. Surprisingly good.

The Pitch

The Whole Truth is the Practice meets Moonlighting meets Boomtown.

The Set Up

The Whole Truth follows two lawyers on opposing sides of a high profile murder. Maura Tierney, making her triumphant return to TV after a battle with cancer, plays the ADA; she's the buttoned up, by the book character. Rob Morrow plays the defense, he's more flamboyant and charismatic and only slightly scummy. (Quick sidebar, no pun intended, on Morrow: this is his third time as lead of a TV show and it also rounds out his trifecta of TV roles - on Northern Exposure he played a doctor, on Numbers he played a cop-type and now he plays a lawyer. I don't hate him or anything, but I think he can retire after this.) The two have a friendship and friendly rivalry that goes back to Law School and presumably will face each other in court each week.

The real hook here is the storytelling: the first half of the pilot shows the two sides as they build their cases - first we see the prosecution then, after an act break, we get the defense. There's a few nice moments where we see phone calls from one side that get fleshed out later and it is a nice touch to see both sides get equal play. But, this conceit is dispensed with when the trial begins and the second half of the episode plays out as any lawyer does. Until the final moment, which the show promises will be an epilogue that reveals to the audience what actually happened during the incident, giving us, wink wink, the whole truth.

Cringe Factor (Out of 10)

4

There's some good stuff going on here - the case is tightly plotted with a lot of different angles going at once, the narrative conceit is used nicely in the first half. the great chemistry between Tierney and Morrow( the "will they or won't they" element is subtle and saved until the very end). The best thing the show has going for it is that both characters are good at their jobs, neither is the kind of one-sided incompetent adversary lawyer shows usually provide, and that creates a lot of tension. When the verdict is handed down it isn't a foregone conclusion which side will win, the way it usually. Of course, some of the characterizations are a little annoying, Morrow's character running around in red sneakers for the show's first half for example, but mostly that stuff is OK.

The show might have some trouble in the future, however, because it is so fast-paced the head spins. Once we get to the trial phase, the whole thing just flies by and that would be fine if we had a little more time with each side as they built their case. It'll probably be a struggle for the show to maintain that pace and it'll definitely become harder and harder to watch. As well, it's totally inconceivable that the same two lawyers would constantly be facing off against each other and that may make the show too contrived as its run progresses. Plus, unless each case is super compelling, you just know the show's potential romance element will become more and more present and that's not gonna be good.

Over/Under for Cancellation

3 seasons

There's enough here to keep this show around, if people are aware of its existence and watch it. It seems like it can work for a while as a pure procedural, taking a new case each week, until the end of the the first season when a big case will come along that strains their friendship and the show can get a cliffhanger finale plus the beginning of season two out of that drama. Then, things will heat up between Tierney and Morrow and someone will have to make a tough choice between a case and the other person. By season three, the show will be running on fumes and will be canceled.