All Rise

All Rise (2019) s01e21 – Dancing at Los Angeles

Dancing at Los Angeles is an admirable effort from “All Rise,” cast and crew, but it’s not a particularly good forty minutes of television. There are a couple big parallels between the episode, a “Coronavirus shelter-at-home” special episode with the cast filming in their homes in character, and the episode content, Simone Missick trying to do a virtual trial. Apparently virtual hearings are a real thing, but not virtual trials (yet).

The defendant on the episode, Mo McRae, has to waive a bunch of rights—he can’t appeal due to procedure—and it’s almost like the show saying, “Hey, it’s the best we can do too and we do need a season finale.”

None of the open storylines get any closure, which is unfortunate (though “All Rise” is “almost renewed” according to the latest post I could find, so maybe). Worse, lots of attention paid to Wilson Bethel’s romance with Lindsey Gort, including some teledildonics, which would be a little much even if Gort weren’t obnoxious. Though she’s admittedly less obnoxious this episode when she’s not trying to ruin some law clerk’s life for smiling at Bethel or whatever.

The episode also puts Bethel in Missick’s “courtroom” for the first time and it’s kind of amazing to see him goof off. The actors all get along too well in the pseudo-Zoom—they don’t even bother making up a name for the video conferencing service, which is kind of nice—for them to be that authentic to their established characters but it’s fine. Everyone gets to be a little cute, to varying degrees of success.

Marg Helgenberger getting drunk and giving Missick shit is a high point, as are any scenes involving Paul McCrane and Peter MacNichol, who the show really ought to make a gay couple next season if it gets renewed.

J. Alex Brinson has the performative story arc of wanting to go down to the jail and work because of all the inmates in danger. Everyone is super concerned about all the inmates. It’s a major Sure, Jan.

Dorian Missick—Simone’s actual husband—guest stars as the DJ everyone’s watching during the pandemic. Wish he’d been a recurring thing all season, it’d fit a lot better. Also wish he was just paying Missick’s husband on the show (Todd Williams shows up to suck the charm out of the show eventually).

Maybe next season, if the show gets one. Missick and Bethel definitely ought to be on better shows but, you know, I’ll still watch “All Rise” for them.

All Rise (2019) s01e20 – Merrily We Ride Along

This episode’s credited writers, Gregory Nelson and Aaron Carter, have written episodes before but they mustn’t have stood out enough I was going to remember the writers. The writing only stands out this episode because there’s a great courtroom scene with Jessica Camacho cross-examining a witness, Rodney To, and catching him up. “All Rise” is a lawyer show without exceptionally good trial lawyering scenes, usually because it’s all about Simone Missick’s judge, but also because the writing’s never particularly smart.

It’s smart this time. It’s very cool. Albeit exactly what you used to get in every episode of “Perry Mason” or whatnot.

Camacho’s case aside—she’s defending a blackout drunk (an effective Jamie Anne Allman) who confessed to a murder she doesn’t remember committing—there’s not a lot of court stuff going on here. Missick’s worried about Camacho’s mental state, but more about her seemingly failing long-distance marriage—the husband doesn’t appear in anything but photos and they’re still a chemistry vacuum in those—and her mom, L. Scott Caldwell, feeling old. So Missick has scenes with Caldwell and dad Brent Jennings. It’s okay… nothing more. And doesn’t feel like a good use of time.

Meanwhile, Wilson Bethel starts the episode going on a police ride along with detective Romeo Brown; Brown wants to show Bethel just how the streets really work. Bethel’s all, “Blue Lives Matter!”, in the first scene with girlfriend Lindsey Gort and the first thing Brown shows him is how he gives comic books to drug dealers for their little brothers or something. But very, yeah, good cops, yeah! Only then Brown assaults some guy and wants Bethel to lie about it so the episode is Bethel trying to work out what he’s going to say in his official statement and seemingly deciding he’s going to quit the D.A.’s office by the end of the episode.

Kind of a bummer because Bethel’s office banter with J. Alex Brinson and Audrey Costa is fun, but also… maybe it’s what the show needs. Bethel’s stagnating. Everyone’s stagnating.

Good direction from Cheryl Dunye this episode, no surprise. Lindsay Mendez gets more of a plot than usual being worried about boyfriend Bret Harrison’s mom, Marg Helgenberger, not wanting them dating. You’d think Helgenberger would be more worried about court reporter Mendez living with defense attorney Camacho and Camacho telling Mendez details of her cases. You’d think it’d also be a problem for Brinson, who works in the D.A.’s office.

But c'est la vie.

There’s better material in the episode than there’s been lately and it certainly doesn’t approach the season lows but… unless they bring on a new show runner, wouldn’t it be better for the show to done in one (season) it and release Missick and Bethel to better projects. Even Camacho, who’s been the most uneven of the four top-billed, could do a lot better than her character arc this season, which has sucked and continues to be a little exploitative even now.

All Rise (2019) s01e19 – In the Fights

I wonder if occurred to the producers they should’ve saved up to license With A Little Help From My Friends for this episode, which is mostly about Jessica Camacho–who started the show getting out of a physically abusive marriage—defending a client accused of assaulting his girlfriend and having major PTSD. The episode starts with Camacho in Enough mode, beating the crap out of a kickboxing bag; she’s been doing for two hours every morning, starting at 5 a.m., and hiding the domestic abuse case from her boyfriend J. Alex Brinson and roommate bestie Lindsay Mendez. Until the episode starts, anyway. She’s going to trial and she’s got to let them know.

Turns out the case has been reassigned to prosecutor Wilson Bethel because the original attorney is out sick and Bethel’s trying to be a friend to Camacho while also trying to convince victim Reina Hardesty to testify. At the start of the episode, we only see Camacho’s client, Robert Adamson, who is super-obviously manipulating and grooming Camacho to the point it’s just a countdown to her kicking his ass when he tries something. But Adamson says he’s innocent and Camacho believes him; she tells everyone she believes him. And Hardesty, therefor, is lying. Hardesty figures in the second half of the episode; she’s great. Adamson’s a convincing creep, but not much else. Hardesty’s actually good.

Meanwhile, Simone Missick’s dealing with relationship drama with husband Todd Williams—her first scene in the episode is establishing the subplot with the flirtatious political fixer and Missick running for attorney general has been dropped like a hot potato, which is a bit of a surprise—and with lawyer Lindsey Gort using Missick’s courtroom to promote her new law firm with Third Musketeer (to Missick and Bethel) Ryan Michelle Bathe and to destroy something beautiful (Bethel’s protege Audrey Corsa). See, Gort and Bethel are dating and things aren’t going great. He’s intrusive, albeit incredibly buff (Bethel gets a big shirtless scene at the beginning of the episode).

And, based on Missick and Bethel’s single confab this episode… they haven’t already retconned out Bethel having a thing for Bathe.

Gort’s profoundly unlikable, to the point it’s rubbing off on Bethel. She’s not bad. She’s just a villain, even though she’s fighting for social justice. It’s very muddled and, unlike the show’s more earnest wide swings this episode, not endearing. Because Gort’s just cruel.

Corsa’s real good this episode. Bethel’s good.

It’s not a great episode for Camacho. Like… it’s real obvious what the show’s doing but it’s also extraordinarily exploitative.

It’s a so-so episode for Missick, who has got to get rid of wet noodle Williams. Though the episode also upstages Missick by giving court clerk Ruthie Ann Miles a martini lunch subplot.

All of its misfires seem imminently avoidable.

There is one fantastic line about how much an abusive partner’s apologies are worth though.

All Rise (2019) s01e18 – The Tale of Three Arraignments

I think I know “All Rise” continuity better than the writers because when they introduce previously unmentioned Third Musketeer Ryan Michelle Bathe (she went to law school with Simone Missick and Wilson Bethel), they bend the backstory about Missick and Bethel knowing each other as kids. Or they don’t completely break it—Missick and Bethel meeting up after undergrad at the same law school could work, though him then (apparently) dating Bathe, who—physical description-wise—is identical to Missick… It has a certain feel to it.

Bathe’s back in town to start a new law firm and she wants both Missick and Bethel to join her. It was their childish law school dream. And both Missick and Bethel are in enough of a state to consider it. Marg Helgenberger’s punishing Missick for not forgiving her White feminist—like, gently punishing, being an obvious jerk but not a Machiavellian villain—and Reggie Lee’s doing something similar to Bethel. Will the Dynamic Duo join forces and become the Terrific Trio?

Only the show never pushes it too hard. “All Rise” is a mostly happy place where Jessica Camacho—who’s got an obnoxious romance subplot with J. Alex Brinson this episode, just exasperating, also has a hashtag Girl Power story arc involving Bathe and now steadily recurring prosecutor Suzanne Cryer. Camancho’s client, Raven Bowens, is being pimped by Greg Tarzan Davis and Camacho wants to do something about it, involving Cryer, but then Davis hires Bathe and Camacho gets her involved. Then Bathe gets Missick involved, who then gets Helgenberger involved and basically it’s a very positive change thanks to women working together moment.

And Bowens is great.

It’s not a great plot and isn’t particularly compelling outside Bowens’s performance and it takes them a while to spotlight her, instead giving it to Camacho in the run-up, but the acting’s solid from the regulars, excellent from Bowens, and there’s a sincerity to it. It’s making the system work for victims.

There’s some more with Missick’s husband, Todd Williams, and the creepy campaign adviser guy, Nicholas Christopher, who apparently Missick’s supposed to have chemistry with but doesn’t because Christopher always seems like a creep. Williams’s got a nothing part; he doesn’t try to showboat it, he just plays it and goes on his way. Christopher tries to showboat and invades the scenes. It’s really weird and unfortunate, as pretty much everything involving Missick and romance is a drag.

She’s much better hanging out with Bathe and Bethel in her off time.

It’s not one of the better episodes, not one of the worse—Bathe’s a fine supporting player to recur… but doesn’t the show have to start worrying about renewal at this point. Oh, episode eighteen… we’re definitely in the renewal pageantry portion of the season—all right, let’s see what they’ve got.

All Rise (2019) s01e17 – I Love You, You’re Perfect, I Think

Despite a forced start with Jessica Camacho and roomie and BFF Lindsay Mendez going hiking in some canyon before work and not finding a body, with some particularly forced angst from Camacho regarding boyfriend J. Alex Brinson declaring his love for her, the episode works out to be one of “All Rise”’s best.

Gregory Nelson’s script does a bit of a greatest hits tour through the show, making sure to give Simone Missick and Wilson Bethel banter and bickering banter to showcase the range of their characters’ relationship.

Nelson also takes the show seemingly new places—and revisiting some unfamiliar ones—the episode doesn’t just have a scene in the judges’ lounge, it also goes to the public defender office for the first time either ever or in a long while; the district attorney office is more familiar but rarely showcased as much as here. The show also figures out what to do with Audrey Corsa, now she and Brinson don’t seem to have a flirtation going. She’s a good sidekick for Bethel, who teaches her to be idealistic above all else in this episode.

Bethel’s got an innocent man to free, so lots of good White guy turmoil, while Missick’s got to deal with telling boss Marg Helgenberger what’s what as far as Helgenberger’s informal vetting.

The Missick and Helgenberger stuff turns out to be good, which is a surprise.

Then there’s a subplot with Peter MacNicol having to admit he’s capable of mistakes as an old White man, even means he has to respect young Latina women (in this case Mendez).

Paul McCrane (who does a fine job directing) is around a bit to spice things up.

Of course, the main plot is a soldier has PTSD so is he responsible for this assault, with Camacho as the defense attorney and Gavin Stenhouse as the accused. Stenhouse is pretty good. He’s able to make it work. Much better than when Camacho and Mendez have a really forced conversation about how much they support the troops.

Lots of big swings for the show—the PTSD of a soldier, Marg Helgenberger’s accountability arc, and the MacNichol having to admit his bias… and it does work out pretty darn well for the show. The episode successfully showcases the show at its best.

All Rise (2019) s01e16 – My Fair Lockdown

This episode of “All Rise” has this super juicy White man part for guest star Ben Browder. Survivalist holds courtroom hostage; the cops came to kick him out of his home, which is apparently somewhere in the County of Los Angeles but remote enough you don’t see people and no one pays attention when you don’t pay your property taxes for twenty years. I mean, California’s big. Sure, let’s go with it. Let’s even go with Simone Missick at one point telling Browder, who doesn’t believe the court has any jurisdiction over him, he’s going to get a chance to “speak his truth.”

Of course, Browder’s truth is objectively false and if he really hadn’t been off the farm for twenty years or whatever, he’d be in for astounding culture shock and be suffering from that problem too but… whatever. Don’t like the dismissive use of “truth” there. Not cool.

But then all of Conway Preston’s script is bad. The dialogue, the plotting, all of it. The only things wrong with the episode he’s not responsible for are the casting and the direction. David A. Harp’s direction is fine except the opening when he tries to do this lengthy fake tracking shot of Lindsay Mendez coming into work and walking past all the regular cast to introduce the episode’s ground situation. Worse, it’s peppy and upbeat while the episode is anything but. It’s a tonal bait and switch and “All Rise” isn’t worth a tonal bait and switch. Regardless of me preferring the latter tone to the former. The peppy stuff is obnoxious. The downbeat stuff isn’t great or even good, but it’s not obnoxious.

Though it’s not like the show challenges its cast. Actually, “All Rise” is a bait and switch in and of itself; here’s this great opportunity for Missick and Wilson Bethel and the show wastes them. They get less so Jessica Camacho gets more, even though she’s not part of their dynamic best buds duo (which is missing from the show, almost as obviously as Missick’s husband, Todd Williams on FaceTime, who’s either dying or cheating by the end of the season). But then Camacho gets a truncated part this episode so everyone else in the supporting cast can get more.

It’s a mess. The show’s got way too many regulars and not enough for them to do. It really needs better writers. And better guest stars. I didn’t think Browder had done anything. I thought they couldn’t get anyone to play such a poorly written juicy White man part—seriously, if well-written it’d be Emmy-bait—but Browder was actually the lead on “Farscape.”

Note: continue hesitating to watch “Farscape,” regardless of Henson Company involvement.

There’s a really solid moment or two for Paul McCrane in this episode though. The action takes him out of his regular—well, it doesn’t actually take him out of the courtroom—basically, it’s a new way to see McCrane. He gets to act opposite Bethel and J. Alex Brinson and talk about Brinson dating Camacho and you realize how great it’d be for McCrane to really get good material and not a souped-up caricature for once.

The show also wastes a Jason Dohring guest spot. I seriously don’t understand how Dohring can’t get a shot outside “Veronica Mars” projects. Though maybe it’s better to be on the periphery of “All Rise,” out of the middling’s blast radius.

All Rise (2019) s01e15 – Prelude to a Fish

It’s a Valentine’s Day episode and romance is in the air around the courthouse. Maybe a little bit too much romance because “turns out they didn’t forget about her” D.A.’s office law clerk Audrey Corsa is back and she’s got her eyes on J. Alex Brinson, who’s starting his clerk job in the D.A.’s office and can tell she’s got her eyes on him and wants to avoid said eyes. Brinson starts the episode with a grand romantic gesture for girlfriend Jessica Camacho in front of all their friends, work acquaintances, and judge Simone Missick. It involves dancing and fish (hence the episode title, which—incidentally—makes no sense if you know what the word “prelude” means).

The sequence would be cringey even if it didn’t kick off Camacho being sad on Valentine’s Day.

Of course she’s sad on Valentine’s Day more because client Danielle Burgess can’t escape an abusive ex-boyfriend and it reminds Camacho of her abusive ex-husband, which eventually leads to a Brinson tone-policing Camacho at work thing. The show goes out of its way to explain why when men do bad things it’s their fault not their ex-girlfriends, but damn if Brinson doesn’t tell Camacho to stop yelling when dealing with shit of a D.A. Mitch Silpa.

Meanwhile Wilson Bethel’s got a case opposite Lindsey Gort; they like each other but are competitive so they only ever hooked up the one time or something a few episodes ago and now it’s time for the next level. While they work through this somewhat strange case involving disability fraud but in a heartwarming, let’s be understanding way. It’s not the most “CBS woke” episode of “All Rise” but its the most constantly “CBS woke” one.

At least now she admits liking Bethel, Gort’s nowhere near as obnoxious.

Meanwhile Missick is investigating boss Marg Helgenberger for a potential political run—doing in-house oppo research—and, just like Paul McCrane (who apparently was only willing to come back if he got to be seated in a break room) warned her. Lots of hemming and hawing for Missick, including the investigation being a cliffhanger, which is a little too dramatic for “All Rise,” while she’s trying to open a present from her offscreen husband. Just reminding about the offscreen husband reminds about how he’s pointless to the show and seems like a forced detail in Missick’s ground situation. Especially since Helgenberger’s campaign guy is a very flirty Nicholas Christopher.

The episode gives Camacho a big monologue about how her husband turned physical abusive, which is intense but also, unfortunately, not a good showcase for Camacho.

All Rise (2019) s01e14 – Bye Bye Bernie

This episode is series story editor Mellori Velasquez’s first episode as the credited writer. And, wow, either she’s really and at the dialogue or they went exceptionally cheap on the supporting cast. For example, Chelsea Rendon’s murder trial defendant. There’s no reason Rendon should be bad and she certainly seems earnest in her performance, but it’s not a good one. The dialogue between Rendon and her lawyer Jessica Camacho, where Camacho tries to empathize with Rendon over being Latinx and in the system (Camacho, big reveal, was in juvie for a bit as a teen), is painful and then made worse by the scenes going on a line or two too long. So maybe director Michael M. Robin’s fault too.

Then again, with Carlos Miranda as the prosecutor on Rendon’s case? He’s just plain bad. He’s got terrible dialogue but he’s also bad.

As the episode, with its plots for almost the entire regular cast—save Lindsay Mendez and Ruthie Ann Miles, of course—started to wind down, I got thinking about how they’ve managed to make “All Rise” a melodrama without making it particularly soapy. This episode’s got Simone Missick dealing with the Rendon trial, which doesn’t require much from her, as well as the perceived fallout from her mom, L. Scott Caldwell, talking about the racism in the criminal justice system. The subplot—which introduces Brent Jennings as Missick’s peacemaker father—culminates in Caldwell and Missick yelling at each other about how Caldwell basically thinks Missick’s a sell-out. The show positions Missick as surrounded by White people evaluating her as a Black woman judge, with Missick’s reaction often being filtered for that audience (as well as the White audience of the show). This scene with Caldwell could’ve been something.

And it’s not. In fact, the show goes on to walk it all back so they can get to a happy ending for the episode.

Also happy ending for the Wilson Bethel subplot with dad Tony Denison. I was thrilled to see Denison in the pilot’s opening credits but they’ve completely wasted him. Even this episode, presumably his last for a while, doesn’t give him anything to do. Velasquez’s forte is not the parents of grown children in the legal field.

Bethel’s case is at least effective, if manipulative, as he tries to get justice for an older woman possibly suffering from dementia (a decent enough Debra Mooney).

Throw in fourth-billed bailiff-turned-lawyer-to-be J. Alex Brinson interviewing for clerkships, Denison’s defense attorney Lindsey Gort flirting a little more seriously than usual with Bethel, and it’s a packed episode.

Maybe the most significant development is Bethel and Missick getting into an argument, which Velasquez cops out on almost immediately, but it’s at least interesting.

“All Rise” really seems to want credit for humanizing prison inmates and people with dementia; it’s a TV drama equivalent of “Please clap.”

All Rise (2019) s01e13 – What the Bailiff Saw

So it looks like Peter MacNicol is going to be a regular guest star, which is fine. He exudes a lovable, not too problematic old white guy energy as Simone Missick’s new judge pal. He shows up for a single scene, to talk to her about the case she’s got going, then disappears again. I didn’t pay attention to his credit in the titles, unfortunately. “All Rise” could use MacNicol around more, especially as this episode seems to imply the initial overarching stories are winding down.

For example, the first time we get to see Tony Denison lash out at son Wilson Bethel might be the last—no spoilers. Denison’s mad Bethel thinks Denison is a murderer, with Lindsey Gort (who’s rather bad this episode as Denison’s lawyer) tries to calm things. But there are some big signs Denison’s time on the show is coming to a close. Similarly, the show’s pushing off Missick’s absentee husband (Todd Williams) for the rest of the season at least. He’s taking a job in DC to make Trump’s FBI more Black-friendly. Him taking the job comes after he introduces Missick to his white FBI lawyer friends, who are all impressed she stood up to ICE… even though they’d be defending ICE in court. And I’m not sure “All Rise” can really sell a fantasy land where Trump-BI is looking to hire Black agents who want to make justice equitable.

Besides, Williams isn’t very good. He’s bland and he and Missick always seem forced together. They really should’ve casted his part better. A modicum of chemistry would make a big difference.

The trial this episode involves Jessica Camacho defending a teen gang member (Luca Oriel) accused of murder and the D.A. bugs the room where defense attorneys meet with their clients. It kicks up a bunch of dust, including an impassioned scene from Lindsay Mendez about how gang members are people too (the show’s humanist take on it is… well, it doesn’t make up for the FBI absurdities and Mendez’s monologue isn’t great but it is a risky position, especially on CBS) and then J. Alex Brison coming down on the wrong side of the issue for girlfriend Camacho.

Not one of the show’s better episodes, but the promise of less Gore and maybe no Williams gives me hope for the future. Though I’m going to miss Denison, even if the show never utilized him well.

All Rise (2019) s01e12 – What the Constitution Greens to Me

This episode of “All Rise”—the first after hiatus—seems like a return to form. At least as much form as “All Rise” has ever had; in terms of guest stars, it means the pilot. “All Rise”’s guest star caliber has dropped since then. Not anymore. This episode doesn’t just have Peter MacNicol as a “I know racism is real, but unconscious racism… not sure about that business” judge colleague of Simone Missick’s who’s presiding over Wilson Bethel’s case. Missick’s got a “bonding with the other judges” subplot she’s going to be doing post-hiatus, with MacNicol her first new pal. He’s good at it and able to navigate the character’s inherent queasiness well. The part leverages MacNicol’s likability, which CBS no doubt remembers from when he was on “Numb3rs” for years.

Speaking of “Numb3rs,” Alimi Ballard shows up this episode too. He’s a Black dad whose wife died because of doctor John Billingsley’s obviously racially motivated neglect. There’s no reuniting with MacNicol—I can’t even remember if they share a shot together, probably not given episode director Steve Robin’s penchant for close-ups—which is fine. Ballard’s… not great. He’s okay. But they could’ve casted the part better.

“All Rise” has never reminded me of “Numb3rs,” instead I always think of it as taking place in the “Major Crimes” universe where cops and DAs aren’t bigots and racists, and also because Tony Denison pops up from time to time as Bethel’s dad. Denison’s back for a scene and not a great one, but then they also bring on “Major Crimes” vet Graham Patrick Martin as an annoying young white guy (Martin’s only note) who wants to commit environmental terrorism to get back at Republican senator mom Kathleen York. Their case is in Missick’s courtroom—she has to consult MacNicol because she’s now worried Marg Helgenberger might be corrupt—and… well, Martin hasn’t improved since “Crimes” ended. He’s got less to do so he’s less annoying. The case only really stands out because Patrick Duffy plays Martin’s ecoterrorism mentor and Duffy is freaking awesome. It’s an exaggerated cameo but who knew we got to the point where Patrick Duffy was going to be one of the best actors on a nighttime drama.

The show does all right with its buzzy topics—unconscious bias, corrupt politicians—at least until Bethel lets Billingsley’s doctor spout a bunch of stereotypes about Black women’s medical conditions without a rebuttal witness. “All Rise” is very fast and loose with its courtroom stuff. We get to see Bethel’s closing argument but not the defense’s. It’s kind of annoying but also okay because the show shouldn’t aim too high. It still doesn’t have good banter between best buds Missick and Bethel, even though they’re good together.

Lots of beach scenes this episode. The show’s also going to be playing up its L.A. setting now?

Much like “Major Crimes” (and “Numb3rs” for that matter), you wish the better actors were in better productions but it’s nice to see Missick and Bethel have a steady gig. I enjoyed watching this episode a lot more than the last… I don’t know, five or six of them. Jessica Camacho and J. Alex Brinson are back to being cute, which gets cloying but at least they don’t have bad arcs.

It’s fine. Hopefully they maintain this better balance through the rest of the season.

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