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'All Rise' Shows Promise
September 23, 2019  | By David Hinckley

A bright, engaging star may or may not be enough to make a winning case for CBS’s newest legal drama All Rise.

All Rise, which premieres Monday at 9 p.m. ET, has Simone Missick playing Lola Carmichael, who has just been named a judge in Los Angeles after a successful career in the district attorney’s office. 

Right up front, of course, it’s encouraging that a woman named Lola plays a judge, not a showgirl. 

Missick’s Carmichael is no novelty act, in any case. She’s a strong character who lights up the screen and may keep viewers interested in what otherwise often feels like a fairly routine courthouse drama. 

Carmichael makes no secret of her ambition. She has always dreamed of becoming a judge, and while that has traditionally been a distant dream for women of color, the times they have a-changed. 

For purposes of this show, perhaps the most gratifying aspect of this evolution is that Carmichael’s ambition is not held against her. She’s not seen as grasping or scheming, any more than a man in a similar situation would be. 

That doesn’t mean nothing happens on All Rise. We aren’t halfway through the first episode before Carmichael has inadvertently helped trigger a shooting incident inside another judge’s courtroom.

TV shows tend to do stuff like that, of course, and in this case it has a bigger plot purpose. It introduces Luke Watkins (J. Alex Brinson), the security guard who gives the incident a happy ending. 

Luke aims to become a lawyer himself, a fact that fuels his first conversation with Emily Lopez (Jessica Camacho), a passionate and sometimes impulsive attorney who defends underdog clients and has boyfriend issues on the side. 

It’s early, but we don’t expect that will be the last conversation between Luke and Emily.

Carmichael, meanwhile, runs into a deceptively tricky case in her first day on the bench. Emily discovers that star LA detective Lisa Benner (Marg Helgenberger) has fudged evidence in a seemingly minor case that happens to touch one of Carmichael’s nerves about the administration of justice. 

Her decision, as she is warned both by one of her superiors and by a deputy chief of the LAPD, seems destined to have widespread repercussions. 

It also raises one of the central ongoing themes of All Rise, which is the fluid nature of justice. While justice might seem absolute – you did it or you didn’t – there are often multiple nuances, just as there are multiple complex relationships among the people in the justice system itself, from judges down to defendants. 

In keeping with the tradition of CBS procedurals, All Rise has a number of strong supporting characters. 

Most prominently, we have Mark Callan (Wilson Bethel), who seems to be Carmichael’s BFF. They worked together in the DA’s office, which Callan is chagrined to see Carmichael leaving, and viewers get to watch as Callan and Carmichael both try to adjust to the new dynamic.

The sleeper star may be Sherri Kansky (Ruthie Ann Miles), the no-nonsense judicial assistant assigned to Carmichael. She’s got her own priorities when it comes to protocol and sometimes justice itself. Mainly, she’s there to keep the train running, and right up front we see that Carmichael doesn’t mind slowing down or stopping if she sees a red flag on the tracks. 

Their interaction is accordingly entertaining, largely because neither gets everything right. 

All Rise probably paints the lines among people in the judicial system as less firm than they are in real life. It’s a TV show, so that’s not a criminal offense. 

Its freshest and most compelling argument, in any event, is Lola Carmichael. It may not be that what Lola wants, Lola gets, but if that’s the verdict, it won’t be Simone Missick’s fault.  

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