Newton’s Law: Episode One
Claudia Karvan, Toby Schmitz, Georgina Naidu, Sean Keenan
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After one ep, the jury is still out on this underwhelming legal drama starring Claudia Karvan.
Legal procedurals have a long and storied history on the small screen – how many seasons and spin-offs of Law & Order are we up to now? But lately the genre has taken on a different life, from the fast-paced wit of Suits to the soapy How To Get Away With Murder. Back home, the ABC is throwing its hat into the ring with a new eight-part drama, Newton’s Law.
Directed by Jennifer Leacy (The Wrong Girl, Wanted, Wonderland) and written by Belinda Chayko (Barracuda, Secret City), the first episode follows Australian darling, Claudia Karvan, as Josephine Newton, a suburban solicitor at a crossroads. Her local business has just gone up in flames thanks to an unhappy client, and her personal life is no better, with her self-destructive sister (Freya Stafford), selfish husband (Brett Tucker), and erratic teenage daughter (Ella Newton) pulling her left and right. But when an old friend with a prestigious position at the Knox Chambers law firm gives her the opportunity to take up the Bar, Josephine is intent on giving back to the little guy, even though she’s defending the big guys.
From the outset, one thing is clear: Josephine is someone worth rooting for. Down on her luck, and only able to trust a handful of colleagues, Josephine is scrappy and resourceful, but ultimately optimistic as she takes on her first tricky case: the barrister whom she’s replacing recently died, and her team must defend the man who is accused of his murder, who just so happens to be another of her colleagues, and the son of one of the city’s biggest judges. It would all be so melancholic if it weren’t for Josephine’s determination to prove herself, but the lack of serious drama stymies the flow of any tension, leaving us with only Josephine to grasp onto.
It’s a shame that her trusted colleagues aren’t so winsome: as their solicitors’ business falls apart, Newton’s offsiders, Helena and Johnny (Georgina Naidu and Sean Keenan), look like lame ducks against Josephine’s effortless charisma, and we aren’t yet attached to them enough to truly care. Combined with the blind overconfidence of Josephine’s old friend and new colleague, Lewis (Toby Schmitz), we aren’t given much reason to care about these characters yet, therefore we don’t, and despite having hope for the rest of the season, we don’t have 22 more episodes to learn to love them: we’ve only got eight.
From the team that brought you Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (Fiona Eagger and Deb Cox), the ABC are now competing with the fast-paced series of online streaming, and they’ve clearly got a winning character in Karvan’s Josephine, who drips with underdog charm as she tackles everything that her personal and professional life can throw at her. But with its high school-level legal jargon, base-line drama, didactic attempts to address hot contemporary topics, and underwhelming characters, let’s hope that this is an accessible pilot that leads to something deeper.