DVD Review: RAISING THE BAR: The Complete First Season

Buena Vista Home Entertainment
RELEASE DATE: June 2, 2009
MSRP: $39.99 U.S.

Raising the Bar is from Steven Bochco (L.A. Law, Hill Street Blues), and focuses on the men and women that occupy the D.A. And public defenders offices. They square off in court by day, and share drinks and thoughts at night. The bulk of them are friends from law school and do not allow their professional skirmishes interfere with their friendship.

Jerry Kellerman (Mark Paul Gosselaar), is a public defender who will stop at nothing to help his clients. This is made very clear right off the bat, he is found in contempt of court after speaking out on the injustices that poor must face in our legal system. Honestly, it was more preaching and whining that speaking. I am a fairly liberal guy, but even I wanted to slap the shit out of him by the end of the first episode.

Working with Jerry are idealistic and wealthy Richard Patrick Woolsley (Teddy Sears), whose desire to work in the public defenders office baffles his father, and tough newcomer Bobbi Gilardi (Natalia Cigliuti). Bobbi, we soon learn, is having troubles at home with her drug-taking husband. They are led by Rosalind Witman (Gloria Reuben) who, after seventeen years, has managed to not only maintain her moral compass but her compassion as well.

Facing off against them are Marcus McGrath ( J. August Richards) and Michelle Ernhardt (Melissa Sagemiller). They work under the oh-so-ambitious assistant D.A. Nick Balco (Currie Graham ). As fair and idealistic as Rosalind is, Nick is the polar opposite and is focusing on winning and furthering his career.

For some odd reason, 90% of their cases are in front of Judge Trudy Kessler (Jane Kaczmarek), who has no problems holding a grudge and whose sense of duty is matched only by her ambition. Her legal clerk Charlie Sagansky (Jonathan Scarfe) is also part of the circle of friends. In addition to providing Trudy with sage advice, he is having a relationship with her. Oh yeah, he is also gay.

RTB is not a bad show, but it can be very preachy, not to mention predictable. As I said, the character of Jerry is a damn annoying, whiny little bitch. Fortunately, the other characters call him on it and even make fun of him. That at least shows me that the writers are taking him completely serious. The show works hard to show us how the system can often fail some segments of society, but it tends to become preachy. Jerry is the character most guilty of it, but others are put in that role as well.

Anything Bochco does is generally entertaining and this is no exception. That said, there is plenty of room for improvement. Let us hope season two sees both the actors and the writers becoming more comfortable with the characters.

Fans of legal dramas will likely be pleased with the show and find this worth owning. While not the high drama is aspires to, Raising the Bar is enjoyable and a fun enough way to pass the time.

Order season one of RAISING THE BAR.
Jeremy Lynch
For more reviews from myself, and the rest of the Crimespree crew, check out the index of reviews.