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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, March 22, 2004

'The D.A.' is hard-edged office drama

By Joanne Weintraub
Knight Ridder News Service

The title character of the new ABC series "The D.A." may be one of the least lovable leads in the history of TV drama who doesn't kill people for a living.

The chief deputy district attorney (Sarah Paulson) has tied her future to that of her politically motivated boss in "The D.A."

Carol Kaelson

This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's something to keep in mind if you like your heroes kind and caring.

Los Angeles district attorney David Franks (Steven Weber, "Wings") cares about his own political future above all else. As for kind — well, he's kind of a swine.

When we meet Franks, his political ambitions are being threatened by a Russian mob sting gone spectacularly bad, resulting in the death of a prosecutor. Enter upstanding young deputy D.A. Mark Camacho (Bruno Campos, "Jesse"), whose investigation into the tragedy will either save Franks' hide or sink his plans to be governor of California.

Where newbie Camacho merely mistrusts Franks, a more seasoned deputy, Joe Carter (J.K. Simmons, "Oz") hates him — "a lot," he tells Camacho: "He's a complete political hack."

But chief deputy Lisa Patterson (Sarah Paulson, "Leap of Faith," "Jack Jill"), while not quite a Lady M. to Franks' Macbeth, has linked her future to that of her boss. The resulting office politics stop just short of cyanide in the cappuccino.

'The D.A.'
  • 9 p.m. Fridays
  • ABC
When "The D.A." sticks to interoffice intrigue, it's very good, and sometimes better than that.

Its above-average actors are cast shrewdly and entertainingly against type. The eternally boyish Weber is anything but a light-hearted lad here, while the innocent-looking Paulson not only schemes but smokes.

Simmons, among the scariest of the many scary "Oz" inmates, plays something of a plodder. Even Campos' good guy isn't above cynicism.

The second episode introduces another interesting character, Jinette McMahon (Michaela Conlin, "M.D.s"), Franks' hard-headed campaign manager.

Where there are prosecutors, however, there has to be something to prosecute. And, unfortunately, each of the first three episodes goes south toward the end, when the crime of the week turns just a little too weird.

I can't tell you what's bizarre about them without giving away the identity of one killer, the real motivation of another or the unexpected connections of a third. Suffice it to say that if somebody ripped these cases from the headlines, they were reading the Weekly World News.

Despite this rather serious flaw, "The D.A." is more interesting than the average legal drama. ABC has ordered up just four episodes for this spring (the first aired Friday), but if enough viewers like what they see, it could win a place on the fall schedule.