I watch a lot of TV shows as a TV critic. There were hundreds.
I watch everything from high-budget fantasy epics to gritty dramas, YA romances, Emmy bait, network sitcoms, true-crime documentaries, and everything in between. But there are times when you just want to sit back, relax, and watch a skilled lawyer thrash his opponent in a posh Los Angeles courtroom.
With “The Lincoln Lawyer” (streaming now, out of four),
A new adaptation of Michael Connelly’s books created by David E. Kelley and Ted Humphrey, the meat-and-potatoes legal drama, long a stalwart of broadcast television with series like “Law & Order,” “The Practice,” and “How to Get Away with Murder,” has come to Netflix. The series has a soothing quality to it, as it takes place in a universe with well-defined ideas and attractive characters. It’s a well-acted, fast-paced, and entertaining series that isn’t unduly ambitious and doesn’t have to be. Its appeal stems from the fact that it’s something familiar done very well, and it’s the type of show Netflix should be producing all the time.
Mickey Haller (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a defense attorney known for foregoing an office in favor of the backseat of a chauffeured Lincoln, was previously brought to the screen in a 2011 film starring Matthew McConaughey (a town car in the original books, but now updated to a swanky SUV). Mickey has been out of the legal profession for a year following a near-fatal surfing accident that left him addicted to opioids. When another defense attorney is murdered, Mickey is obliged to return to practice, including the murder trial of a tech CEO (Christopher Gorham), which may be the most important case of his career.
As he tries to reclaim his legal mojo, Mickey enlists the services of his second ex-wife and legal assistant Lorna (Becki Newton), investigator Cisco (Angus Sampson), and driver Izzy (Jazz Raycole). He’s also attempting to reclaim his daughter Hayley (Krista Warner) and his first wife Maggie (Neve Campbell), a prosecutor.
The unpretentiousness of “Lincoln” is so appealing.
It isn’t attempting to address major questions, except whether Mickey’s most important client is guilty. As the flamboyant lawyer, Garcia-Rulfo is a little stiff at first, but as he gets more comfortable and Mickey discloses more about himself, he grows on you. It’s evident how Garcia-Rulfo got the part in the series’ climactic courtroom address. This version of Mickey can win over any jury with quips, sneaky smiles, and a flair for oration. Like co-creator Kelley’s other classic legal dramas, such as NBC’s “The Practice” or Fox’s “Ally McBeal,” the dialogue is snappy and humorous.
The series is far from flawless. The emotional stakes for the subplots could be better defined, especially in Maggie’s human-trafficking case. Lorna appears to be Mickey’s sister rather than his ex-wife. When the plot swings away from little cases and Mickey is solely focused on his huge murder trial, a few episodes lag.
“Lincoln” is still a lot of fun, and that’s all we can ask of it. Netflix is in the midst of a crisis, having lost 200,000 subscribers this year, and will soon be altering up its tried-and-true technique for new programming. “Lincoln” is the type of show that has been missing from the streaming service, which already offers a slew of pricey, effects-heavy genre entertainment like “Stranger Things” and A-list prestige stuff like “Ozark.” “Lincoln” is in the middle, both financially and in terms of star power, but its quality doesn’t suffer as a result.
Goldilocks was always drawn to the middle choice. A good episode of “The Lincoln Lawyer” feels exactly perfect after a hard day.
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