*Do we already know the outcome of ABC’s new legal drama, “The Fix?”
Marcia Clark, the show’s co-writer and executive producer, led the prosecution team that failed to convict O.J. Simpson of double murder in 1995. Johnnie Cochran’s defense used race and long-standing African American distrust of the police to massage the jury. “The Fix,” premiering tonight at 10, seems like a therapy project allowing Clark the chance to “fix” whatever parts of her remain shattered by the Orenthal experience … an “If I Convicted Him” version of O.J.’s “If I Did It.”
Asked in an ABC promo if “The Fix” and its A-lister accused of murder is indeed her revenge fantasy, Clark didn’t say it’s not.
Clark’s on-screen alter ego is former prosecutor Maya Travis (Robin Tunney), and her O.J. Simpson is Severen “Sevvy” Johnson (Adewale Akinnoye-Agbaje), a famous black actor who was acquitted of double murder on her watch eight years prior. After the high profile trial, Maya fled the glare of Los Angeles to the relative quiet and seclusion of the Pacific Northwest…until her co-prosecutor/co-lover Matthew Collier (Adam Rayner) pops up at the crib with news that Johnson has again been accused of killing his girlfriend, and he needs her help to ensure that they close the deal. Maya’s desire to get a conviction this time draws her back in, but not everyone in the DA’s office is happy to see her back in the building.
There appears to be a strong case against Sevvy, but the show has enough going on beyond the actual “did-he-or-didn’t-he” plot that kept my attention in the first two episodes given for review:
• Maya is surprised to learn that her former colleague CJ Emerson (Merrin Dungey) is still salty over the way she cut and run following the last verdict, without so much as a goodbye. Having to work together again with this tension adds a little something extra to the viewing experience.
• There’s an added influence of social media that had yet to exist in the mid-nineties. Sevvy’s dream team, led by Ezra Wolf (Scott Cohen), hires a digital guru to give his public image an SEO polish.
• Both of Sevvy’s dead ex-girlfriends are white women. It will be interesting to see if the show grows all of the racially-charged tentacles that sprouted from O.J.’s Becky fixation. The NFL vet had long ago abandoned his cultural connection to the black community, but needed to be viewed as a black man by the jury, Cochran deduced, if his defense had any chance of winning. At some point, will we hear the line “I’m not black, I’m Sevvy?”
• Sevvy has a dubious ex-wife played perfectly by Robin Givens. (I see you, casting director!) Their relationship, by far, is the best thing about the show, and hopefully it will get more screen time in the coming episodes.
• Akinnoye-Agbaje’s searing presence in a long-overdue lead role is the second best thing about the series and all but overpowers topliners Tunney and Rayner.
“The Fix” slips into conventions you’d expect from a legal drama on network television (like the montage of opposing lawyers getting ready for court), and as an African American viewer, I loathe the visual of another black character caught in the criminal justice system. But I’m curious to see how Clark navigates the racial landmines dotting her revenge fantasy, or if by some miracle Sevvy turns out to be 100 percent not guilty … for real.
Clark co-writes with Liz Craft and Sarah Fain. David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman and Laurie Zaks are executive producers for Mandeville TV. The pilot was directed by Larysa Kondracki. The show is produced by Mandeville and ABC Studios.