Proven Innocent is insufferably preachy, woefully inept, and just generally unlikable; a legal drama guilty of sheer incompetence.
Fox’s new legal drama Proven Innocent is the worst kind of posturing, holier-than-thou hogwash. In it, Rachelle Lefevre plays Maddie Scott, a self-righteous know-it-all attorney with a degree in snark and a bee in her bonnet after having been wrongly convicted along with her junkie brother, Levi (Riley Smith), for a murder they didn’t commit. She particularly has it out for Gore Bellows (Kelsey Grammer), the prosecutor who sent her down in the first place. Luckily Grammer seems very much aware what kind of ridiculous show he’s in, even if nobody else does.
After a lifetime of marginalisation for being ginger, Maddie spearheads the Injustice Defense Group, a racially-panoramic team of legal pros and a podcaster (of course she has a podcast!), including Ezekiel “Easy” Boudreau (Russell Hornsby), Violet Bell (Nikki M. James), and Bodie Quick (Vincent Kartheiser). And a dog, weirdly, but as Violet states early in the pilot, “At least he’s black!”
The dog comes from a pre-credits stinger in which some kind of perpetrator blows his head off right in front of an unfazed Maddie, who casually decides what to do with his now ownerless animal. She’s so tough and jaded! Her tedious tendency to quip at any given opportunity both rings false for the character and becomes grating incredibly quickly. It’s insufferably artificial, which is the wrong tone entirely for a show that purports to tackle bigotry, injustice, corruption, and gross failings of the American legal system.
It isn’t just that the characterisation and tone is at odds with the subject matter; it’s that the subject matter is approached without any nuance or insight, or any consideration for opposing points of view or even the potential of one forming one’s own opinion. The preachy, enlightened attitude of Maddie and her team is insufferable, but Proven Innocent is explicitly designed to indulge and encourage it. They’re right-thinking, morally-upstanding culture warriors defending the marginalised and the downtrodden, and everyone else, from legal institutions to journalists and everything in-between, are presented as flagrantly corrupt or proudly useless.
There’s nothing wrong with having a point of view – I complimented that Roswell: New Mexico reboot for having one, and was promptly accused of running a “leftist pathetic excuse for an outlet” – but Proven Innocent doesn’t really have a point of view. It’s just reeling off popular attitudes and talking points for pats on the head, like a housecat bringing home dead birds and plopping them on the lounge carpet. Meanwhile, whenever it can’t figure out how to drum up laughs or kill time between plot beats, it resorts to sitcom-style we’re-all-so-fun hijinks, which rings both false in general and incredibly tone-deaf in context.
Proven Innocent is a messy, silly show that knows exactly who it wants to please but has no idea what it actually wants to be. In all likelihood that cluelessness will ensure it pleases no-one, and aggravates plenty. All its well-meaning attitudes feel like hollow and self-serving attempts to win favour from the loudest, most puritanical of the TV-watching masses, and such shameless begging at the feet of its audience is pitiful – and Proven Innocent isn’t even any good at that.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.