WHAT IT’S ABOUT Julia George (Piper Perabo) is the hotshot producer of the nation’s top cable news program, hosted by superstar Louise Herrick (Kate Jennings Grant). “Louise Herrick Live” is one of those steamy news/interview shows that traffic in crime, but what’s really steamy is the anchor. She’s got secrets and boyfriends, and it’s basically Julia’s job to protect both, while making Louise look good on the tube. That means getting scoops.
Fortunately, she’s close pals with Jake Gregorian (Daniel Sunjata), the dashing, handsome legal superstar who handles LA’s most notorious cases, including — in the pilot — a manslaughter charge brought against an internet billionaire allegedly involved in a fatal hit-and-run. Besides handling Louise, and manipulating Jake into a guest spot on the show, Julia’s now got another problem — Ryan Mills (Ryan Guzman), who is also dashing, and handsome, as well as the son of the cable news network’s president. He’s been added to the staff of “LHL.”
MY SAY “Notorious” is based on the career of longtime “Larry King Live” executive producer Wendy Walker, and my assumption is that “loosely based” or “ridiculously based” were the only options available to ABC. Because the slinky, lingerie-wearing sexpot of an anchor, Louise Herrick, is supposed to be the counterpart of Larry King, “ridiculously based” quite obviously prevailed.
And so, “ridiculously based” it is. Walker could sue for defamation, but she consulted on the production, so that option is probably closed off. Instead, she’ll have to suffer along with the rest of us forced to watch this.
“Notorious” takes the two least-liked professions in America — the media and law — and drives a stake even deeper into their blighted reputations. It could have added “presidential candidates” to the pot and gone for the trifecta.
Someone says of Perabo’s Julia George: “She produces the No. 1 cable news program. She decides what the country cares about. She creates heroes and monsters, victims and villains. She tells the world when to pay attention and what really matters.”
Why not just tape a sign reading “Kick me” to poor Julia’s back and be done with her already?
Sunjata’s Gregorian — an even slicker version of defense attorney Mark Geragos — doesn’t come off much better. A wheeler-dealer who stage-manages lies to maximize coverage for his clients but especially for himself, he’s the legal tarantula to Julia’s cable news scorpion.
Character likability is actually just one issue. Plausibility is the other. “Notorious” embraces a popular assumption that TV news really is just a cesspool of logrolling and favor-pedaling, and that what gets on the air goes to the highest bidder — or the guy who can afford the most expensive lawyer. Since retired, Walker was a veteran producer who knew where the bodies are buried, and knows that a few of them — once exhumed — might corroborate some of this.
But an entire series basted in this assumption, then seasoned with lines like “Hey, boss lady, how do you like your meat?” Even these bodies will spin in their graves.
BOTTOM LINE A queasy legal/media procedural that could make you dislike TV lawyers — and TV anchors — even more than you already unreasonably do.