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NOTORIOUS Series Premiere Review — A Solid Start

By on September 23, 2016

NOTORIOUS - ABC's “Notorious" stars Piper Perabo as Julia and Daniel Sunjata as Jake. (ABC/Kevin Foley)

By Kirsty Pearce

Created by Josh Berman and Allie Hagan, Notorious is an interesting and smart window into the complicated dance that exists between the media and lawyers, as well as to a lesser extent police, this show impresses in its first outing by gifting viewers with entirely realistic, relatable and intriguing characters based on real life personalities.

Opening with the rather bold choice of two people having sex, the first person we are introduced to is Julia George, the producer of the number one cable news program, Louise Herrick Live. Welcoming her newly appointed federal judge boyfriend home, this reunion we soon find out is taking place in her office, and is interrupted when she gets a message which sends her jumping straight into producer mode, with her show just about to go to air.

The studio is, as one might expect, a bit on the hectic side, especially right before a show, but Julia handles it like the pro she is. Smoothly directing things like an expert conductor, and moving from one issue to another in a matter of seconds, she also gains a new production assistant in Ryan, her network president’s son, who is eager to impress and move up without relying on the influence of his father. Megan, another employee who seems to be Julia’s right-hand woman, brings her a breaking story right before the show goes live, a story involving the client of the lawyer who just so happens to be a guest on LHL that morning, Jake Gregorian. After he storms off the show furious about being ambushed, it is revealed to have all been staged.

Their long-standing friendship is apparent, as you then see them work together to get her higher ratings and him help with his case, a case which turns out to be a lot more complicated than originally thought when it is revealed he was in love with his client Oscar’s wife, Sarah, and ends up sleeping with her again. The ramifications of this, and Oscar and Sarah’s rather problem filled marriage, play out over the rest of the episode, resulting in it being discovered that Sarah was the one who committed the crime, not Oscar, and her subsequent death. There is also a secondary storyline involving a congressman client of Jake’s law firm, as well as Julia finding out her boyfriend sleeps with prostitutes.

Piper Perabo and Daniel Sunjata exude an easy chemistry and comradery which speaks to a friendship filled with history, and makes their interactions ones that leave you with a smile. Though on the surface they share what appears to be a ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ business relationship, it’s in the unguarded moments when they show a deeper connection, one which in no way shows any signs of turning romantic, something I’m grateful for, as I am enjoying how they interact with each other without all that sexual tension.

Dealing with duel storylines which expand across two worlds, that of a cable news studio and a law office, there were multiple threads in this episode outside of the main case. In a word, this pilot is fast-paced, with impressive camerawork, fluidly moving from the TV studio to the TV screens people are watching LHL on, as well as effortlessly shifting back and forth between Julia and Jake’s workplaces. The music is fantastic as well, as it enhances and adds wonderfully to the vibe and tone of the show without being a distraction.

Information about these characters and their secrets is something that comes out organically, without too much heavy exposition. While there are a few moments where it is a bit obvious certain lines or conversations are only there in order to set the story up, they are few and far between. Though the consummate professional with keen instincts while in front of the camera, off air, Louise is a rolling mess of rather loose morals and let-your-hair-down fun, with almost zero inhibitions so far. Her rather likable personality and supportive relationship with Julia make her a character I’m going to enjoy seeing on my screen every week.

Piper Perabo, an actress I’ve enjoyed watching as Annie Walker on Covert Affairs, and in films such as Because I Said So, plays a savvy, experienced, tough woman who loves her job. My favorite scene is when she breaks up with her sleazy boyfriend, as it not only showcases what a complete bad-ass she is, but Piper also interjects a certain tremulous quality to her voice that tells us she is not all cynical and steel inside, which I think makes her a much more complex character.

Daniel Sunjata, on the other hand, I have not seen in anything before, but his portrayal of Jake was definitely an interesting mix of cocky charm, confidence, smarts, vulnerability, and manipulation skills. He also has a more genuine, emotional side that he seems to reserve for those he cares about, such as Julia, and his brother Bradley, co-owner of their law firm Gregorian & Gregorian.

Another thing I especially enjoyed was the dynamic between the supporting characters, particularly Ryan and Ella, an eager young lawyer at Jake’s firm he flirts with and then follows in order to gain information he passes on to Julia. Also, refreshingly, there does not seem to be any workplace competitiveness or animosity between him and Megan, something I hope will continue.

Setting up an over-arching plot-line which looks set to continue into the next episode, and will no doubt also play a large part across the rest of the season, this first episode ends on a soft cliff-hanger which has the potential to shake the foundations of Julia and Jake’s ‘never lie to each other’ policy. With engaging characters, as well as some interesting possibilities in how they will juggle both news show stories and law cases, there is some real potential here that I’m excited to see shake out over the coming weeks.

Notorious continues Thursdays on ABC.

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