‘Conviction’ Lacks It

Ken Tucker
Conviction: Hayley Atwell and Eddie Cahill
ABC/Giovanni Rufino

Ready for another Shonda Rhimes show that’s not from Shonda Rhimes? ABC is certainly hoping that’s so. A week after it launched the Rhimes-rip Notorious, the network is back with another one-word-title, adventure-in-monotony, the legal drama Conviction. The show also represents ABC’s latest attempt to make Hayley Atwell happen on its network, after the cancellation of Agent Carter.

This time around, Atwell is Hayes Morrison, a former first daughter who is blackmailed into taking a new job after this naughty rebel was caught in possession of cocaine. The job is to head up the newly created Conviction Integrity Unit, which tackles cases in which it is suspected that the accused might be innocent. To give the premise some tension, the unit has only five days to solve each case. Why that time frame, I mean beyond the fact that everyone wants the weekend off? This show — co-created by Liz Friedman (House; Jessica Jones) and Liz Friedlander (Stalker) — really can’t be bothered to make any reason convincing.

Related: ‘Conviction’ Preview: Hayley Atwell Is Excited to Act in Jeans

Nor is it believable that Atwell’s Hayes should be able to waltz in and take over a group of talented lawyers and investigators because she’s the daughter of a former president. One of the least likable things about Conviction is its admiration for celebrity-as-power. There is more than one scene in which Hayes gets information or access purely because some awed civilian falls back to gasp a variation on, “Hey, you’re that president’s daughter!”

This adds to the innate arrogance of the character Atwell is called upon to play. To be sure, she does her best. So does the supporting cast, which includes Merrin Dungey (Francie from Alias) as someone more qualified than Hayes to run the Conviction Integrity Unit, and Eddie Cahill, as a smirky district-attorney-slash-love-interest. The always wonderful Bess Armstrong plays Hayes’s mother, a Senate candidate. I’d rather watch a show about her.

Conviction airs Monday nights at 10 p.m. on ABC.