'The Firm' premieres on NBC: Are we supposed to remember the movie or not?

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Image Credit: Steve Wilkie/NBC

NBC is desperate for a hit. It’s no secret, but on Friday the refreshingly candid Robert Greenblatt laid the cards on the table at a press event. “We had a really bad fall,” he said. “Worse than I had hoped for, but actually about what I expected.”

Yowza!

It’s clear, though, that the Peacock has high hopes for its midseason block to begin the slow process of turning things around with the return of godsend Idol-rival The Voice, a flashy, much-buzzed musical drama, Smash, and book-to-screen-to-screen thriller, The Firm.

Based on the best-selling book by John Grisham, NBC’s The Firm arrived yesterday in the form of a two-hour premiere that reintroduced us to young (still?) lawyer Mitch McDeere, who 10 years after he blew the whistle on his corrupt firm has — like The Hangover Part II — found himself in essentially the same situation all over again. That’s where it gets confusing. TV Firm could have replaced Movie Firm — i.e., Mitch is hired by a big firm that the audience knows is evil and week by week he works on a procedural case while inching closer to the serial story of the firm’s corruption — but instead, TV Firm takes place after the events of the book (and movie), incorporating those elements into the TV show’s mythology. People may not remember what happened in the original version, but as long as they know that a mob family has a grudge against McDeere, they should be able to follow.

The Firm‘s opener was confusing at best and awkward at worst. Besides the fact that the multiple flashbacks-within-flashbacks reached Inception complexity, the show spent two hours giving us a lot of information that has little or no relevance as to why, six weeks later, Mitch is calling his wife from a pay phone (really?) with a Code Red. Plus, if your show is named The Firm and the audience knows that your protagonist is going to join the Firm, don’t spend 90 minutes getting there. At least Terra Nova got that part right.

Moving forward, will episodes be set in the “present”? Or, is the present actually “six weeks ago,” and the season will move toward the Code Red like Flash Forward? I guess we’ll just have to tune in on Thursday and find out. Still, despite all the confusion, the show delivered some decent TV courtroom drama and did a good job of setting up Josh Lucas’ character. For all its faults, The Firm gave us to something with serious potential and it deserves, at the very least, some post-pilot attention.

Other strong points:

– Juliette Lewis, always a good choice

– Lucas’ unbelievably blue eyes. Apparently he suffers from Bradley Cooper’s Limitless disease

– the chemistry between Mr. and Mrs. McDeere (Molly Parker) is believable (see: tasteful Sunday-night sexytime)

Battlestar Gallactica‘s Tricia Helfer, perfect as the high-powered lawyer with an eye for McDeere’s talent

Only time will tell if viewers will commit to The Firm. The show’s legalese certainly seems at home on the Peacock, where a steady stream of Law & Orders have been keeping the lights on since the Cold War. Plus, nothing says “broad appeal” more than Grisham and circa-’90s Tom Cruise blockbusters. For NBC’s sake, here’s hoping that the show can find an audience and smooth out some of its rough edges.

What did you think, Popwatchers? Will you be keeping The Firm on retainer?

Read more:
NBC confess: ‘We had a really bad fall’
Juliette Lewis joins ‘The Firm’

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