What happens when a television series depends on a title character, but that character is completely uninteresting? The answer is you get a 6 episode run, and then you’re over. That’s exactly the story with Canterbury’s law. I have no doubt that Julianna Margulies is a better actress than she showed on this show. I mean, she has to be, right? Margulies walked through her role as lawyer Liz Canterbury. The character had tons of potential. She was a bit of a rebel. She wasn’t afraid to bend…all right, break … the rules for her client. That kind of a maverick character usually means high ratings. But not if the actress playing the part refuses to invest anything into playing the character. Even when Canterbury is fired up, which, honestly, is most of the time, there’s almost no expression on Margulies’ face. Her voice fails to lift the dialog to the level of passion the material might be calling for. In short, she plays a charismatic character with no charisma. To make matters worse, the team was made up of unknowns, likely to remain such. Not that I really blame the actors. The parts were pretty bad. Ben Shenkman stars as Liz’s partner, Russell. Russell was once on the DA side of things. What makes him decide to partner up with Canterbury is a mystery deeper than any case the show explored. He disagrees with her nearly 100% of the time. He doesn’t appear to be happy most of the time. The firm appears to be struggling, so he’s not in it for the bucks. Liz, for her part, is always waiting for him to cut and run. It seems he’s there only to prove he’s loyal. Her associates are made up of Keith Robinson as Chester. Chester’s dad is running for the Senate and is a powerful man who doesn’t like the idea of his son in such a dead end firm. Chester’s trying to prove he’s got street cred and distances himself from his influential father. Finally you have Trieste Dunn as Molly, the attorney who has yet to pass the bar. She’s the budding idealist who was just beginning to develop somewhat when the show’s bottom fell out. Liz is dealing with a lot in her personal life as well. Her son was abducted three years ago, and it’s caused a strain on her marriage. The infidelities she’s had didn’t help much either. She’s in a pissing contest with one of the DAs who is out to bring her down at any price. She happily assists by doing things like suborning perjury and tampering with a jury. Did I miss anything?
Each episode of Canterbury’s Law is presented in its original broadcast 1.78:1 aspect ratio. I hope this show looked better when it was on the air. This stuff is a mess. Colors are often unnatural and heavy on the reds and yellows. They also run and appear blurred. Flesh tones are hampered by some odd soft focus that makes it look like a kid was running the camera. There’s an excessive amount of grain, particularly in the pilot episode. If it looked this bad in HD broadcast, it likely improved the odds of it not surviving. This is a very bad video presentation.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is almost as disappointing. It might as well have been a simple stereo track. About the only thing you’ll get in your surrounds is ticking and other score percussion moments. Of course, there’s no real tragedy here because it is, after all a lawyer show with mostly dialog driven scenes. You can hear the dialog just fine.
If it sounds like I’m being harsh on the show, look at the run. It was quite heavily promoted with a lead actress who had some star power. The viewers never came. Like most short-lived shows, I’m sure that Canterbury’s Law had a small but very loyal following. That’s why we get the limited run in a DVD release. There’s hope that the faithful few will attempt to show the power of their dollars to a network that has given up on their show. Trust me, guys. I know how you feel. I’ve struggled with the all too swift exit of a show I’ve loved. But it all comes down to those economics that fans will try and demonstrate now. Not enough people liked or watched shows I loved like Brimstone, for whatever reason. I’ve had to cope with that occasional premature series death. Canterbury’s Law was deserving of the ax. Enjoy these episodes while you can. This was a very hard show to get through for me, and I love lawyer shows. I consider it a very light imitation of The Practice, complete with the old “Plan B”. So why did I watch all 6 episodes? “Out of morbid curiosity, if nothing else.”