The prolific David E. Kelley, gone from the broadcast airwaves for a few years, returns to television on Amazon this week with GOLIATH. Like most of his former series, GOLIATH is a legal drama. But with the freedom of streaming services, unbound from the set running times, act breaks, and episode counts of the broadcast networks he called home for so long, it’s a new beast from the old hand. And, let’s be honest, what fan of legal drama doesn’t want another one from this guy?
GOLIATH stars Billy Bob Thornton (Fargo, Friday Night Lights) as Billy McBride, a washed-up alcoholic who is past the peak of his career. Spinning into a personal hole, Billy has a bad relationship with his ex-wife, Michelle (Maria Bello, Touch, Prisoners), and daughter, Denise (Diana Hopper, Hidden Truth). He doesn’t start in a very good place.
Billy’s break comes when a woman brings him a big case that would pit Billy against his former partner, Donald Cooper (William Hurt, Humans, Into the Wild), and the firm Billy was forced out of, which Michelle is still involved in. Now, personal and professional life is intermixed as Billy fights for justice, and possibly for a little revenge from those who wronged him.
It’s an enticing premise. Everyone wants to cheer for the guy who is down, and who we expect to turn it around, especially when his opponent (Donald) seems so clearly in the wrong. It’s a black-and-white dynamic, and while the odds are stacked against Billy, David-and--style, we are sure that the misfit crew he puts together, which includes a real estate attorney and a call girl, will win the day.
If I were to compare this to any of Kelley’s other series, I would say, on paper, it is most like Harry’s Law, which featured a noble, flawed character staging a comeback. Except, GOLIATH is a much darker drama and the case will be ongoing over at least the course of the season, whereas Harry’s Law was funny and procedural. So GOLIATH still has some of the classic Kelley elements and similarities to his past work, but isn’t just a retread.
The writer takes to the looser format very well. Watching GOLIATH, I was struck by how much it resembles some of the higher-quality series on the premium cable and streaming networks. It doesn’t have the same memorable juice as Fargo, American Horror Story, Westworld, Breaking Bad, and the others at the top of the heap, but it is a very solid entry that can hang in the same general stratosphere.
Helping this along is the excellent cast assembled. Thornton proved himself to any doubters with his last television role, and he is more than capable of taking the lead here. Yet, so are most of the other actors around him, so he is in good company with Bello, Hurt, Olivia Thirlby (Good Vibes, Juno), Molly Parker (House of Cards), Nina Arianda (Hannibal), Tania Raymonde (Lost), Sarah Wynter (24), Damon Gupton (Bates Motel), and more. There should be no complaints about the company.
The pilot starts off intriguing, but like the excellent Damages, it just seems to be scratching the surface initially. It sets up the scenario and introduces us to most of the players, but there are sure to be a lot of twists and setbacks as things unfold. At approximately eight hours running time, it looks to be a manageable, quick series, with no time for fluff and treading water, so I expect it will move quickly, but going by the pilot, not too quickly. I’m intrigued and plan to watch the full season.
GOLIATH’s entire first season will be available on Amazon Prime beginning today.
CHIEF TELEVISION CRITIC | Creator of and writer for It's All Been Done Radio Hour live show and podcast. A voracious reader wanting to tell stories of his own, Jerome began writing around the age of 8 and hasn’t stopped, both original works and television reviews. Lives in central Ohio. Favorite current shows include The Walking Dead, Jessica Jones, Flaked, Outlander, and Archer.