49° Good Afternoon
49° Good Afternoon

‘Goliath’ review: Slow-paced and well-acted

Billy Bob Thornton stars as a disgraced lawyer in this new Amazon Prime series. (Credit: Amazon Video)

THE SHOW “Goliath”

WHEN | WHE-RE Starts streaming Friday on Amazon Prime


WHAT IT’S ABOUT A yacht floating in the Pacific Ocean off Los Angeles explodes — really explodes — creating a fireball that soars into the sky, and a wave that nearly obliterates the only witnesses, a pair of fishermen watching from afar on their boat. Now, the sister of the man on the exploding boat who was killed wants answers, and for those goes to Billy McBride (Billy Bob Thornton), a onetime courtroom star now reduced to public defender work. As luck would have it, his ex-wife Michelle’s (Maria Bello) law firm — a $2 billion goliath — might know a little something about what happened to the boat, although her partner, Callie Senate (Molly Parker) and the secretive boss of the megafirm Donald Cooperman (William Hurt) aren’t in a hurry to help. It’s produced by David E. Kelley and Jonathan Shapiro, his longtime associate on many shows including “The Practice.”

MY SAY One of the most influential writers in TV history, with a credit list from here to the end of your arm, David Edward Kelley sure seems like the kind of producer who has nothing left to prove to anyone, least of all TV critics. But, in fact, he does have to prove himself again to viewers. They are a different breed from the Kelley glory days of “Picket Fences” or “The Practice,” when there were only three or four broadcast networks and a handful of cable ones, and — when “Ally McBeal” ruled — an adolescent internet that turned Ally’s Dancing Baby into an enduring meme. These viewers are demanding, prickly and obsessive. They’ve seen it all and are constantly trolling for something new. They’re armed with Twitter, blogs and Facebook, which they wield to confer praise or condemnation. They’re restless. They have a thousand options. As a result, they have TV-induced attention deficit disorder, too.

“Goliath” is almost certainly not the show for them. It shambles along with hardly a care in the world. Whole scenes pass without much of anything happening at all — this padding is a consequence of having to fill eight solid hours with material. Seen head-on, or from the perspective of these viewers, “Goliath” would appear to be a conventional, labored geezer, content to walk the walk of a thousand procedurals that have come before.

Fortunately for “Goliath,” it’s on Amazon Prime. Viewers here may still come to the same conclusion, but at least have the luxury of time to savor what actually works. A few things (actually) do, most notably the cast. Besides Hurt and Parker, Harold Perrineau (as a judge) and Damon Gupton (as a defense contractor goon) also turn up. So does Dwight Yoakam as an even bigger defense contractor goon. Bello’s role is underdeveloped, but may get better as the series goes along. (I saw the first four, out of eight episodes.)

Then there’s Thornton. As a hard-luck lawyer looking to get off the booze and back in the game, his McBride sounds like a stock character, except Thornton — as usual — creates someone who’s anything but stock. McBride is interesting, with a hint of mystery and damaged without fully revealing why. He’s the best reason to keep watching.

BOTTOM LINE A lethargic procedural is brightened by a good cast.


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