TV Recap: Bluff City Law – Love It Or Leave It? (Spoiler Free)

Bluff City Law
Love It Or Leave It? Review
September 10, 2019

On Monday, September 23, 2019, NBC will kick off its the 2019-20 television season with the premiere of its newest legal drama, Bluff City Law.

From creator and writer, Dean Georgaris (The Brave; The Meg), Bluff City Law seamlessly blends two disparate sub-genres of drama, family and legal, into an engaging hour of television. Georgaris, supported by a dynamic cast of explosive newcomers and one heavyweight veteran, delivers the first sure fire hit of the Fall season.

Read on for our thoughts on Bluff City Law and whether we think you should Love It Or Leave It!

(Photo by: NBCUniversal)

Official Show Synopsis.
Jimmy Smits, Caitlin McGee (Photo by: Jason Bell/NBC)

“Coming from a famous Memphis family known for taking on injustice, brilliant lawyer Sydney Strait used to work at her father Elijah’s celebrated law firm until their tumultuous relationship got in the way. After barely speaking to him for years, Sydney is suddenly thrust back into the family fold when her philanthropist mother passes away unexpectedly. In the wake of her loss, hoping to reconnect with the daughter he loves, Elijah asks Sydney to rejoin his firm. She agrees because despite her lingering resentment and distrust, she knows that working alongside her father is her best hope at changing the world … if they can ever get along.

“The cast includes Jimmy Smits, Caitlin McGee, Scott Shepherd, Barry Sloane, Michael Luwoye, MaameYaa Boafo, Stony Blyden and Jayne Atkinson.

“Dean Georgaris will write and executive produce. Michael Aguliar and David Janollari will executive produce.

Bluff City Law is produced by Universal Television in association with David Janollari Entertainment.”

Caitlin McGee as Sydney Strait, Michael Luwoye as Anthony Little, Jimmy Smits as Elijah Strait — (Photo by: Jake Giles Netter/NBC)
Thoughts.

“In case you haven’t noticed, the world’s running out of heroes.”

Caitlin McGee’s performance as Sydney Strait is fierce and aggressive while also being exposed and vulnerable. Casting McGee, a relative unknown, as the lead in a major network series is a giant gamble by Georgaris and NBC, but it pays off in spades from the first minute. Full of unresolved anger directed at her philandering father and the unexpected loss of her mother, while also being faced with having to admit that her dad is on the right side of history (legally speaking) is a difficult kind of internal conflict to express but McGee plays the complexity with ease. After just two episodes, I am fully on board with wanting to see where Sydney goes and how McGee portrays this layered character as she works out her myriad of issues.

The casting of Jimmy Smits as Sydney’s father, legendary civil rights attorney Elijah Strait, is a smart move for two reasons. First, Smits brings gravitas to every role he plays and single-handedly elevates the level of discourse and legitimacy of a project simply by attaching himself. That he rose to fame some  30+ years ago playing a lawyer on L.A. Law serves as a nice bookend of a career replete with memorable roles. As Bluff City Law opens, we learn that Elijah Strait is a firebrand genius with a storied legal career of fighting for the downtrodden, but, whose fire has been somewhat tampered by the loss of his wife. Having lost the love of his life (and maybe his moral compass), Elijah redirects his fiery focus from the courtroom to reconnecting with his estranged daughter, Sydney. This storyline of reconnecting with Sydney is a perfect metaphor for the second reason casting Smits is a smart move. The man is a solid rock of dependability. If you are going to gamble your show’s success on the talents of a young, unknown lead, you BETTER have a Jimmy Smits in your back pocket to serve as an anchor and dependable load bearing wall.

Now, in the case of Bluff City Law, Caitlin McGee shoulders the burden of lead with aplomb that belies her young age but still, it has to help your confidence in yourself and your product when you are playing scenes with Jimmy Smits, the man is giving 110% in every scene; an unmatched intensity and empathy rarely matched in the history of television.

Barry Sloane as Jake Reilly, Michael Luwoye as Anthony Little — (Photo by: Jake Giles Netter/NBC)

The rest of the cast, mostly employees of Strait and Associates (plus Sydney’s ex, the chief of detectives), ably fill in the landscape of a small Memphis law firm dedicated to being social justice warriors.  In particular, keep an eye on Michael Luwoye (as Anthony Little) and Barry Sloane (as Jake Reilly) to be break out supporting stars. Luwoye (who we know from an all too brief performance on The Magicians as well as The Gifted)  has an easy charisma and likeability that makes it hard to take your eyes off of him when he’s on screen. Sloane, as Jake Reilly, plays the attorney most disrupted by Sydney’s return to Strait and Associates and as such, finds himself having to make some choices on why he is a lawyer and what he wants out of his career. He’s also, maybe, being set up as a potential love interest for Sydney but we’ll see how that plays out – there is a natural competitive edge between Sydney and Jake that will be fun to watch play out over the season.

Caitlin McGee as Sydney Strait, Barry Sloane as Jake Reilly — (Photo by: Jake Giles Netter/NBC)

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the secret star of Bluff City Law … Memphis, Tennessee. Shooting on location in Memphis, a colorful city full of life, gives Bluff City Law an air of authenticity that helps the viewer stay in the story. Memphis is not LA and it is not NYC; there is a Southern, honky-tonk energy that emanates from Memphis and Bluff City Law is infused with this energy by taking advantage of known spots like the famous Rum Boogie Cafe. When sweeping exterior shots take you up and down Beale Street, you are magically transported to this underrated city.

“Why measure yourself by money when you have a chance to change the world.”

I have been a corporate lawyer for 14 years and man, Sydney’s crisis of conscience (punctuated by her father’s words about the dearth of heroes) really resonated with me.  There is a soul crushing emptiness that comes from working in a “Big Law” setting where you only represent corporations or the uber-wealthy. The realization that you are not making anyone’s life better, that you are just making rich people become richer, is a light bulb moment where you have to stop and take a long look in the mirror. Based on the first two episodes alone, I know that watching Sydney’s journey will be a cathartic experience for me.

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Love It Or Leave It?

LOVE IT! The idea of “Change the World” is pervasive in Bluff City Law.  It’s refreshing to watch a show dedicated to lawyers being catalysts for change and fighting for what’s right versus one note charlatans obsessed with swindling and bamboozling clients and judges with chicanery and slick talk. I hope Bluff City Law never loses this focus of doing what’s right about all else because, for me anyway, it’s the driving reasons for me to tune in.

The Bluff City Law series premieres is on September 23, 2019 and will air on Monday nights on NBC at 10pm (ET/PT). We’re sure we’ll be frequently Live Tweeting so please, join us! 

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