TV Review: Lower your expectations for Bochco's 'Raising the Bar'

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If the year was 1990, TNT's "Raising the Bar" (10 p.m. Monday) might seem new and tantalizing. But in 2008, it just feels like a show from 1990.

"Raising the Bar" is as pedestrian as cable dramas come. Executive producer Steven Bochco seems stuck in his old ways, like a dog who refuses to learn new tricks.

Set in New York law offices and courtrooms, "Bar" tracks young lawyers -- prosecutors and defense attorneys -- including Jerry Kellerman (a long-haired Mark-Paul Gosselaar, "NYPD Blue"), a public defender who likes to argue with an unsympathetic judge (Jane Kaczmarek, "Malcolm in the Middle"), even calling her a "petty, spiteful tyrant" and a "sadist and rogue." Naturally, he's held in contempt a couple of times in the one-hour premiere.

"Raising the Bar"
  • When: 10 p.m. Monday, TNT.

Over at the district attorney's office, D.A. Nick Balko (Currie Graham) sexually harasses one of his employees with glee -- workplace sex is a Bochco staple -- and she responds by coming on to him, which freaks him out.

"Don't let your great big head make promises your little bitty head can't keep," she teases. In a future episode, Balko lectures her on the "problem with women lawyers."

Created by Bochco and David Feige, who scripted the premiere, "Raising the Bar" improves somewhat in future episodes that tamp down Bochco's extremist tendencies. Even Kaczmarek's Judge Trudy Kessler begins to more closely resemble a real person instead of a fire-breathing, cartoon version of an out-of-control judge.

But "Bar" still feels like an attempt at a '90s-era edgy prime-time drama whose time has past. Even a pair of late-in-the-premiere revelations about the love interests of multiple characters feel been-there-watched-that contrived. These attempts to shock comes off as just as ho-hum as the rest of the show.

For a series titled "Raising the Bar," Bochco seems to have set the bar pretty low.

Contact TV editor Rob Owen at or 412-263-1112. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at .


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