In Street Legal, the CBC returns to one of its strongest properties and hopes to strike for a second time. It finds new life through modernizing to 2019 while remembering where it comes from, what makes for good television, and finds drama in both the personal and the professional aspects of its storytelling.
Cynthia Dale is the cocksure, aggressive lead of the series, reprising her role as Olivia Novak from the original run. Her fall from glory and eventual rise from the ashes is the set-up to some great potential with the new cast.
This is all about second chances, about going back to basics and making it about the work. The first two episodes certainly make it about the work, and do it in a way so that the overall arc and the more episodic pieces reflect back on them personally.
The show can dip a little too far into melodrama here and there, but its subject matter is dire and gripping enough where it’s warranted.
The opioid crisis and how it affects so many families and lives is a fantastic avenue for the revival to go down, allowing addiction to be the driving force while the legal and fact-finding side tries to bring forth the truth.
Drama is also found in the characters’ lives and how ingrained and personal each victory, loss, and slight becomes to them. Some characters, in the pilot especially, are not so defined, but by the end of the second episode, everyone has their fair share and become worthy of investing in.
Cara Ricketts’ Lilly Rue and Yvonne Chapman’s Mina Lee are the two standouts from the new cast, who drive personality and passion into their performances and bolster some excitement and enthusiasm into their scenes.
For Steve Lund’s Adam, the show’s arc is a more personal affair, but outside of some family issues, Adam has not been given enough to fully register in the show yet. Here’s hoping the rest of the season can remedy this.
But it is still Cynthia Dale’s show. Her calm and focused presence, her barbed insults and casual way of making sure everything always goes the right way (her way), makes Olivia as compelling as ever, and a rightful fit with the new cast and what the revival is going for.
There is an excitement to its style, in the way it’s filmed always in motion, always following its leads and always keeping the focus on what matters. It’s a fast and quick style, and fittingly matches the update.
Street Legal has the trappings of American legal dramas, but does so in as Canadian a way as possible. The legal speak is Canadian, the locations are so incredibly Toronto, and each character is from a different walk of life. And while there are insults, it’s still a fairly polite show, most things said out of earshot, or while walking away briskly.
Together, this all adds up to a fairly successful revival. Street Legal is built on working from the bottom and reaching for the top. The show has history at its back, and while it uses this history to jump start the proceedings, it’s in the new blood where the show takes off and finds just as much promise.
Street Legal airs Mondays at 9pm ET on CBC, and streams on CBC Gem in Canada. The review is based on the first two episodes, which were provided for review.