Tony Denison

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.

All Rise (2019) s01e11 – The Joy From Oz

Does the Los Angeles court really have a bring your kids to work day? I’m less engaged with the dramatics of “All Rise,” which has Wilson Bethel hemming and hawing over whether or not to help dad Tony Denison with his upcoming trial or just abandon him and Simone Missick having to defend herself as a judge to her current and former peers, whose problem with her is basically she’s a Black woman but “All Rise” doesn’t have the stones to say it, than with the incidentals of the courthouse they’re creating. Chief Justice Marg Helgenberger deciding her most important duty is to make sure visiting kids have the best time on their trip is… very weird. And very silly (they stage a mock trial based around Wizard of Oz, sadly it’s for the kids and not smartly written). But Helgenberger’s awesome at being silly. She’s been fine on the show before, good even, but never so much fun.

But while she’s being fun in a C plot, Missick and Bethel are just trying to get through the episode. It starts with everyone going crazy for the cookies at the District Attorney’s holiday party, which seems like utter nonsense. A bunch of harried adults geeked out a couple cookies (because they’re not irresponsibly snacking of course). “All Rise” dares the viewer to take it too seriously.

Anyway, Bethel’s arc is all about how some crook rats out his boss and it turns out to be because of a family thing and so it inspires Bethel not to abandon Tony Denison, even though at the end of last episode Bethel was ready to quit his job and become a defense attorney. There’s also a white guy redemption thing to it. Meanwhile, Missick’s got to defend herself against asinine allegations—she apparently embarrasses attorneys in her courtroom when they’re shady or incompetent—while Rocket Romano (or whatever Paul McCrane’s conservative white judge but not racist conservative TV nonsense conservative) shoots her withering looks. It’s got a predictable end.

Missick gets a big speech about how she’s going to judge the way she’s going to judge and it’s… fine. It’s not well-written, it’s certainly not well-directed (Claudia Yarmy’s direction is best described as annoying), but Missick gets through it. See, she’s got the hashtag woke courtroom and everyone—except the white prosecutors (save Bethel of course)—thinks there finally needs to be a hashtag woke courtroom. Not sure why no one else could do it but whatever. It’s just sad Missick’s stuck on such an obvious, middling network drama instead of actually getting to act on something.

All Rise (2019) s01e10 – Dripsy

Lots of guest stars this episode—Tony Denison, Ileana Douglas (who brings so much energy to the show she ought to be added as a regular), familiar-faced Brian Howe, and then Dina Meyer for a scene. The episode’s about Simone Missick having to switch courtrooms due to a leak and then protect the defendant in a case from her incompetent lawyer (Howe). Oh, and Wilson Bethel’s got a sleepwalking burglary case—Douglas is the consulting psychiatric examiner—but mostly he’s dealing with dad Denison getting arrested.

The episode then ends with Marg Helgenberger very calmly and disinterestedly informing Missick she’s under review. Missick’s old buddies in the prosecutors office have filed complaints (not Bethel, obviously). The episode ends on a semi-solid cliffhanger between Missick’s review and Bethel debating whether or not to quit his job to defend Denison and there’s this possibility the show could be about both of them quitting to become defense attorneys and it’s the most potential the show’s had in maybe ever.

Shame it’s not going to happen.

It’s also moving day for Jessica Camacho, who ends up in Missick’s courtroom by the end of the episode but doesn’t really do anything there. Camacho is moving in with court reporter Lindsay Mendez who’s a regular but doesn’t get story arcs. J. Alex Brinson and Camacho go out on a date, which gets bumpy but also doesn’t, and he’s apparently forgotten all about new prosecutors office clerk Audrey Corsa. She’s in it for a literal shot, reminding everyone she exists but having nothing to do. Kind of weird to introduce her just to drop her but whatever.

The cliffhangers for Missick and Bethel, which are all of a sudden instead of building over multiple episodes (especially Bethel’s), reek of middling plotting and give the actors very little to work with. Though having Denison back—he’s barely in the episode though, with Bethel’s time mostly spent trying to find him lost in the system—does mean having Denison’s fantastic hair helmet back. It’s awesome.

Not sure it’s worth watching the show just for it but it’s awesome.

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