Notorious focuses on the professional and personal relationship between a powerhouse television producer and a charming attorney as they attempt to control the legal system, the media and each other.
Warning, there may be spoilers ahead.
There were high expectations for Notorious. It has taken over Scandal’s timeslot right in the middle of Shondaland Thursdays so it needed to do well. On watching the pilot it certainly does have the feel of a Shonda show; it’s sexy, glossy and has enough twists and turns to keep you guessing till the end. But to survive between Grey’s Anatomy and How to Get Away With Murder, it’s going to have to bring something new to the table.
New might be in the form of producer/lawyer pairing Julia George and Jake Gregorian. Yes, they have the same initials – I see what you did there ABC. Julia and Jake (played by Piper Perabo and Daniel Sunjata) are our glossy protagonists, although you wouldn’t know it given how little we learn about them in the pilot. Sure, we learn a little about their backstory. Jake was in love with his client’s wife. Julia has a boyfriend who cheats on her with prostitutes. But we learn nothing about who they are as people, their personalities, the very thing that gets viewers to love characters. Julia’s breakdown, performed brilliantly by Perabo, at finding out about her boyfriend cheating gets close but before we have time to process that we’re whisked away to another scene. It’s understandable I guess, Notorious fits a lot of things into its 42 minutes. It’s just that character development isn’t one of them. What little we did see was great. The chemistry between Jake and Julia was palpable and the emotional scenes between the two make for an interesting relationship. The fact is, Jake and Julia have huge potential. They just need to be given the time to get there which hopefully we’ll see in upcoming episodes.
Much the same as Julia and Jake, the other characters were given little chance to flourish. I still know nothing about Jake’s brother Bradley (J. August Richards) and co-worker Ella (Aimee Teegarden) other than their names and professions. Richards is a fantastic actor so I can only hope they actually use him in the series. It would be a shame if his character faded into the background. Fairing slightly better in screen time are Julia’s co-workers: host Louise (Kate Jennings Grant), new PA Ryan (Ryan Guzman) and junior producer Megan (Sepideh Moafi). Grant is a particular standout, bringing a lot of humour and sass to the episode. I’m definitely more understanding of the lack of cultivation of secondary characters in a pilot because that’s generally par for the course with most debuting episodes. But for the rest of the season it feels as if it needs to be less shocks per minute and more character building.
The shocks per minute were fun though and I like that we seem to have a long running arc, with Sarah’s murder, for the season. The whole case definitely had How to Get Away with Murder vibes to it, and that show is excellent. If Notorious goes in the same sort of direction, then it could be a real winner for ABC. Structurally wise the episode really worked and the pace was quick which really fitted in well with what the show is trying to do. The script definitely needed a little work, there were far too many clichés and cheesy lines, “Justice calls” making me roll my eyes the most. I know it’s meant to be a soapy show so maybe lines like that do fit in but with such a strong premise and intelligent story, it feels as if they don’t need to sell themselves short like that.
One thing I can say about Notorious is that it was entertaining as hell. It’s one of those shows that can make you laugh and in the next minute have you gasping with shock. It’s definitely excelling in this area. With some fine-tuning of minor issues, it has real potential to have a great freshman season.
Pilot Rating: 3.5/5