In choosing programming, ABC-TV tends toward what its managers must think of as a rather adventurous mindset, It’s clearly just tailored to meet the expectations of left-of-center urban elitists, but praising themselves for their taste and sophistication is of course one of the things that defines such people. And it can make for good entertainment if you can get past the intellectual complacency.
The new crime drama series How to Get Away with Murder (Thursdays, 9 p.m. EDT) exemplifies ABC’s approach: slightly different take on a conventional genre (crime drama)—check; talented, egotistical protagonist with vague hints of mystery—check; the most explicit legally possible depictions of non-marital sex, including homosexuality—check and double-check; attractive young people competing with each other for professional and sexual primacy—check; pretensions to intellectual value—check; avoiding a linear narrative time frame—check; and so on and on.
And what do you know? It works rather well. The pilot episode moves along at a nice clip, as a group of first-year law students chosen to work with their haughty, tart-tongued law professor (Viola Davis) in her extremely successful criminal law defense practice competes with each other to help her establish the client’s innocence and win the professor’s praise. One complication to the plot is the strong implication that the client may in fact have committed the murder and be about to Get Away With it, as the series’ title suggests.
I’m not sure that very many people will enjoy seeing new murderers go unpunished every week, but perhaps that won’t be an important element of the series. One might compare that idea with the fact that the extremely popular Perry Mason TV series made the client’s innocence perfectly clear every week, and draw conclusions about changing social values and whatnot, but I’ll leave it up to you to make up your own mind about that.
Another complication, depicted in flash-forward scenes (or, if you prefer, the entire episode is told largely in flashbacks, and this is the narrative present—oh, forget it!), is that the four law students mentioned above spend a good part of the episode’s time trying to dispose of a dead body, with the initial implication being that they have killed this person, though I don’t buy it for a minute, since that would be too obvious. Anyway, these flash-forward sequences are apparently meant to be highly suspenseful, though they play out just as you would expect: they get away with it after plenty of close calls and much fretting and arguing with one another.
Still, it’s a good enough hook and will probably make for some interesting scenes of counter-plotting and backstabbing in future episodes. Like everything else about How to Get Away with Murder, it’s not nearly as clever as the show’s creative staff probably think it is, but it’s entertaining enough to be worth the time it takes to watch it. Episode 2 premieres tonight for those interested in taking a look.
If you want to watch the pilot episode first, ABC is currently offering it for free online, here: http://abc.go.com/shows/how-to-get-away-with-murder.