"Raising the Bar" Review: Taking the Criticism Head On
Sometimes, the best way to deal with a criticism is just to confront it head on. And that’s exactly what “Raising the Bar” does in its second season premiere…
In the episode entitled “Hair Apparent,” Jerry (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) celebrates his birthday with his friends, who decide to take the opportunity to take a few playful shots at him, or more precisely his hair (which ironically, looks better in this episode than it did at any point in season one). And although their actions annoy Jerry, it doesn’t seem to change his mind about it.
But when a juror Jerry is unable to prevent from being seated tells him he doesn’t trust him because of his sloppy appearance, Jerry takes action, and the hair is gone. And yes, it is a HUGE improvement.
Personally, though, I’ve always been more bothered by Jerry’s ill-fitting suits. Thankfully, those are gone too and Jerry actually looks like a real lawyer. As Gosselaar told me when I spoke with him a few weeks ago, “We thought we would take away a distraction.” Now hopefully people can start concentrating on the show’s substance instead of its appearance…
And Jerry has an interesting case to get it started. He’s representing a man whose nephew was selling drugs out of his barbershop behind his back. The nephew is willing to accuse the uncle, but the uncle refuses to sell out his nephew.
Meanwhile, Roz (Gloria Reuben) decides she wants to get back into the courtroom as her counterpart on the other side, Nick (Currie Graham), gets tough with his staff. Marcus (J. August Richards) meets an intriguing woman on his jury. And Bobbi’s (Natalia Cigliuti) possible romance with Jerry hits a snag as her divorce starts to get ugly.
Plus, Judge Kessler (Jane Kaczmarek) is still up to her old tricks, Charlie (Jonathan Scarfe) is still dealing with his decision to come out of the closet, and Michelle (Melissa Sagemiller) is as driven as ever to win.
In the third episode, they’re joined by an extremely eccentric judge (John Michael Higgins, who has thankfully rebounded from his “Kath & Kim” debacle) who will no doubt make all of the attorneys’ lives miserable with his illogical rules.
Gosselaar told me that with a longer season, the show can take its time and really flesh out all of the characters, and he couldn’t have been more right. Roz, who was probably the most slighted character in season one, finally serves a purpose with her return to the courtroom. And Nick’s ambitions to win at any cost make him a little deeper than the shallow sexist we knew in season one.
You’ve heard me say this before, but it’s worth repeating that “Bar” is a good drama with a great cast. And after watching the entire first season and the first and third episodes of the second season in a marathon session over the weekend, I am more than hooked on the characters, the cases and the drama.
A clean cut, better dressed Mark-Paul Gosselaar is just a really nice bonus…
“Raising the Bar” premieres Monday, June 8th at 10 p.m. on TNT…
Photo Credits: Eric McCandless/TNT & Art Streiber/TNT