September 22, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Notorious”


NOTORIOUS:  Thursday 9PM on ABC – Change the Channel

Any viewer apt to complain about the over-the-top melodrama of Scandal should be forced to watch the pilot for Notorious, a supposed “drama” so consistently idiotic that it’s closer in tone to the self-mocking theatrics of Jane the Virgin.  As it happens, Notorious is filling Scandal‘s timeslot during Kerry Washington’s pregnancy leave, so ABC is inviting the comparison, and the contrast between the two almost seems calculated to burnish Shonda Rhimes’s reputation.

Like Bull, Notorious is inspired by a true-life situation, and together, the shows are a warning against such lazy series development.  In this case, the reality is the friendship between celebrity attorney Mark Geragos and TV news producer Wendy Walker (they serve as executive producers here), who are mirrored in the series by Jake Gregorian (Daniel Sunjata) and Julia George (Piper Perabo).  Jake and Julia are longtime, close–but platonic–friends, who skirt the edges of professionalism by cooperating with each other:  she gets scoops for the talk show she produces hosted by Louise Herrick (Kate Jennings Grant), and he gets exposure for the law firm he runs with brother Bradley (J. August Richards), and whatever spin he’s putting on his latest high-profile case.

One can sort of understand how this pitch might have sold to a network, but as fleshed out by series creators Josh Berman (Drop Dead Diva, The Mob Doctor, Bones) and Allie Hagan, it barely approaches two-dimensionality, let alone three.  The plot of the pilot is one scene after another of breathless purported twists, where one character or another jumps to a crazy conclusion, furiously accuses another of lying, or succeeds in completing what’s supposed to be a dazzling reversal on another, although it usually doesn’t make any sense.

The main serialized plotline is so thin that it was a shock to see it remain unsolved at the end of the first hour.  It concerns tech billionaire Oscar Keaton (Kevin Zegers), whose wife Sarah (Dilshad Vadsaria) is Jake’s One That Got Away.  Oscar is accused of a hit-and-run killing, which before long degenerates into a defense of sleep-driving, leading to a more brutal murder and a fake passport.  Most of the major events coincide with one or another of the characters being booked onto Julia’s TV show.  Meanwhile, the B story, something about a politician being blackmailed for wearing a costume with Confederate insignia at a party 12 years earlier, doesn’t even merit further description.

Aside from the shameless dumbness of the script, there’s a fatal lack of chemistry between Perabo and Sunjata, both appealing performers but together barely believable as acquaintances, let alone soulmates  Louise is mostly seen in her underwear, asking Julia or another staffer to fetch her condoms for her latest session with her boytoy.  At least Louise has some kind of character; the other staff members on the show and at the law firm barely exist.  Pilot director Michael Engler keeps the actors in constant motion, but he doesn’t pull much in the way of characterization from anyone.

Notorious will get a solid lead-in each week from Grey’s Anatomy, and its genre does fit the ShondaLand mold, so maybe there will be an audience for it.  But it’s low-grade and synthetic, an android filling the place of living drama.

NETWORK FINAL:  How Long Until Scandal Comes Back?

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."