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*He is not a secret agent. Not at all.



Warren Ellis termed Shark a post-House show (right here). It really is, but I think this show could have gained a lot by being as stark (pun very likely intended) about it's main character as House is about Greg House.

Shark follows Sebastian Stark (James Woods), a big-time defense attorney who finds himself having won one case too many when the guy he gets off on an attempted murder rap goes and finishes the job. He is convinced to put his considerable talents to work for the prosecution.

He's a House. Full of himself and rightfully so. Well, that is until he completely breaks that façade and falls for some defendant's theatrical stand on the stand.

Gah. Hope that doesn't happen again.

Certain scenes follow the House style. I most thought of this when he demonstrated his mastery of whoever is on the stand by ripping apart one of his subordinates in a exercise. A subordinate who would be the one to resist. The one who thinks he's over-rated (one of them, anyway) and finds his presence repulsive. It was cool. I think the pilot could have greatly benefited from having at least one more "power" scene like this, where Woods/Stark knocks you down out of sheer ability. In the courtroom would have been perfect, but we didn't quite get there in act four.

Like House has his three doctors, Stark has lawyers, allegedly the unfavored of the D.A.'s office ( save for the one that volunteered because she recognizes Stark's brilliance (and could be shades of Dr. Cameron)), but he's got too many.

How is Shark unlike House? House probes Greg's personal life often very indirectly. It comes through in cases and in unspoken words. In subtext. Shark uses Stark's personal life for b-plot, directly. We meet his daughter and his ex-wife and are involved in his daughter's decision to stay in LA with Dad or move to NY with Mom. We witness him trying to bond with his daughter and (predictably) getting caught up in his work when he does. I think the show would gain something by, as I said, being more stark about it. Don't let us into his life so clearly. Let this complex man be a puzzle. This complex man who is so involved in his work that he has constructed a court room facsimile in his home (using artifacts from famous trials like O.J. or the Scopes Monkey Trial). It's video'd up and provides a danger room of sorts for Stark and his team to hone their legal acrobatics.

When that courtroom came up, it also put me in the mind of this being a sort of companion to Justice (which I have not seen, but have been inundated with promos for all summer). He puts huge resources into prosecution as they do into defense.

And I liked it better when Justice was called American Crime.

I can't say I am particularly familiar with the work of writer Ian Biederman. He's done work for Crossing Jordan, Law and Order: SVU and a short-lived 1995 series called Courthouse, so I guess he's got the background. The pilot's direction is notable for having been done by Spike Lee. As I've said before, I'm no director and I don't pretend to be able to judge more subtle direction work, but it seemed fine to me. "Nothing screamed out Spike Lee directed this." It didn't have any distinct identity to it of any kind, really.

Back to the House comparison. When I first saw House, I was impressed by Hugh Laurie and by the character. The puzzle of the week's medical case was okay, but it wasn't going to be what brought me back. When I saw the second one, it became clear there was a formula and I wasn't sure I'd keep watching, but I gave it another week. Somewhere around week 21 (of 22) or so ("Three Stories" specifically), I decided I'd stick with the show. Shark could be like that. The cases aren't going to be the draw, it's going to be James Woods as Stark. He's an amazing actor and the character can be very intriguing, but only if they are willing to screw with him and take chances somehow and let him be an unremitting asshole. The daughter thing is too much of a grounding thing for Stark, so I'd like to see something get really shaken up there.

I'll go week by week on this, as I did with House. It's 10/9c timeslot is favorable, though (for me personally), so I'll probably keep on it regardless, until there's a schedule shake up.

They should have just called it Stark.
©2024 Michael Patrick Sullivan
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