'The Firm' Is Just NBC's Latest Mess

Well, it's another disappointment for NBC. The severely ailing network rolled out one of its big midseason hopes last night, a series adaptation of John Grisham's The Firm, and it's an all-but-certified flop.

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Well, it's another disappointment for NBC. The severely ailing network rolled out one of its big midseason hopes last night, a series adaptation of John Grisham's The Firm, and it's an all-but-certified flop.

The big two-hour premiere only attracted an average of 6.2 million viewers and earned a rating which, as Entertainment Weekly points out, managed to be 46% lower than last year's big misguided NBC midseason show, The Cape. Oof. 46 percent down from the freaking Cape? That is not good. Especially when the show is based on such a once-popular cultural entity (both book and movie were fairly huge in the 1990s) and starring a guy, Josh Lucas, who could in some small way be called a movie star. (Or at least he was on his way to becoming one in the mid-aughts.) With numbers this low, it's quite possible that The Firm will be disbarred pretty soon. (That's a joke because the show is about a lawyer.) So what happened?

NBC promoted the show heavily during highly watched football games, showcasing its thriller/mystery style and exciting pedigree. And yet despite all that there was little buzz for the show. Maybe it had just been too long — the novel came out twenty years ago, the movie eighteen, and in general Grisham's moment in the airport novel spotlight has mostly come and gone. Though there were interesting aspects to the show — Lucas, costar Juliette Lewis, a Damages-esque look at crooked attorneys — they just didn't coalesce into something must-see, or even wanna-see.

Watching the episode, it was unclear if it was going to be a case-of-the-week lawyer thing with some overarching intrigue peppered throughout, a more butch The Good Wife, or a true serial like Damages. It ultimately seemed like a little of both, and thus felt muddled and unsure of itself. Also, Lucas seems oddly wooden and bored as our hero Mitch McDeere, while Mitch's 10-year-old daughter is one of the most obnoxiously precocious TV kids in recent memory: At one point she says "So why do I feel like I just got screwed on a technicality?" A ten-year-old. To her father. Right. This is all to say that it doesn't seem likely that word-of-mouth will be much of a force for this show.

So, another loss for the Peacock. After the failure of several other high-profile dramas this season — the gruesome Playboy Club, the overlooked and underrated Prime Suspect — this latest dud has got to sting just a little bit more than any run of the mill weak debut. Ah well. On to the next big hope, Smash. It's a show about theater! What could possibly go wrong?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.