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‘Conviction’ review: Drama in need of a pardon

Hayley Atwell stars in this legal drama about a unit that investigates wrongful convictions. (Credit: ABC Television Network)

THE SHOW “Conviction”

WHEN | WHERE Monday at 10 p.m. on ABC/7

GRADE C-

WHAT IT’S ABOUT Designer high heels behind bars — this is a woman we need to know, right?

Turns out she’s former First Daughter Hayes Morrison (Hayley Atwell, “Marvel’s Agent Carter”), whose ex-First Lady mom is running for the Senate. Daughter’s bad behavior fills the tabloids, when she isn’t busy being a first-rate defense attorney and law professor. Her current problem is an arrest for drug possession, which hotshot New York District Attorney Conner Wallace (Eddie Cahill, “CSI: NY”) keeps quiet in order to blackmail Hayes. She’ll have to head his new Conviction Integrity Unit, examining exoneration claims that might burnish his image for the next mayor’s race. And she’ll have to handle their long-simmering romantic attraction.

But wait. There’s more. The DA has already assembled a take-it-or-leave-it team of investigators, whose first assignment involves a black football player’s murder conviction by an all-white jury. Members include the DA’s resentful protege (Shawn Ashmore), a tough ex-NYPD detective (Merrin Dungey) with a past, and a forensic expert (Manny Montana) who’s an ex-con.

MY SAY This run-on setup makes me react the same way as a completely unrelated-to-this-show person named Hillary Clinton, who in last week’s presidential debate was heard to exhale: “Whew — OK!”

Whew! Anything else about “Conviction”? I can only take so many notes at once with editing this hyperactive. I do remember Hayes being heard to describe herself as “messy, destructive and dangerous.” Like, why bother portraying behavior when you can just announce it? Hayes also eventually decides she really does want this new gig, “to right the wrongs, to fight the power, to stick it to the man.” Is she kidding?

“Conviction” is so into overkill, it’s hard to tell what to take seriously. Maybe Atwell has that same feeling about this lame procedural consolation prize for ABC’s failure to establish her better vehicle “Agent Carter.” Hayes is less an actual human than a list of attributes, as “Conviction” keeps piling up the cliches.

BOTTOM LINE It’s better than ABC’s similarly flirty Thursday crime hour “Notorious.” But not by much.

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