RogerBW's Blog

Conviction 11 September 2017

2016-2017, 13 episodes. Hayes Morrison, daughter of an ex-president and living with a party-girl reputation, runs a unit that reviews old cases.

So basically this is a criminal investigation show, effectively a police procedural, except that the crimes happened years ago, the forensic science has mostly already been done, and the person convicted probably didn't do it. I probably wouldn't have given this a look had it not been for Hayley Atwell in the lead (and Shawn Ashmore as the guy who would have got the job and ends up working under her).

But lots of uninspired cop shows do well, so why did this one feel like a dead show walking right from episode one? I think that people who watch a cop show want to think cops in general mostly get it right, and every episode here is about how they got it wrong, at least potentially. Some of the victims turn out to be guilty of something else, but even that's still a police error. So people may have been predisposed to dislike it even before the often-clumsy writing and heavy-handed character development became apparent. (Every character in the main cast has a Past, and Problems which will be worked out in thirty-second chunks in between the cases of the week.)

There's always a short deadline, a single-digit number of days, and it's never explained why this is the case (only one of the episodes actually deals with a pending execution). Once one notices this, it tends to feel very artificial – as if the unit didn't have enough problems already!

Even Hayley Atwell's performance is patchy. Sometimes she's on fire and dominates the screen; sometimes she just presides over case meetings and lets everyone else do the work, and whether she was told to tone down the charisma or simply didn't bring it to what was in those episodes effectively a bit part, the end result is inconsistent.

The show wasn't renewed, and indeed it was effectively cancelled after five episodes had aired. I can't say it was a great loss, but it had a few good moments, and I'm still surprised this got so much early negativity when something really terrible and even more predictable (like Lethal Weapon or The Exorcist) didn't.

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