February 16, 2019

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Proven Innocent”



PROVEN INNOCENT is even worse than you might expect from a broadcast drama that premieres on a Friday in February.  The creator is David Elliot, whose previous scripts have mostly been action movies (GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra, the Mark Wahlberg vehicle Four Brothers), and the writing is crude at every step, elbowing viewers in the ribs to make sure we get the point.

The premise is sturdy enough:  as teens, Madeline Scott (Rachelle Lefevre) and her brother Levi (Riley Smith) were wrongly convicted of murdering her best friend.  She fought to clear their names and they were eventually released from prison.  Now she’s got a law degree and a determination to fight for others who were put in jail as a result of sloppy or corrupt evidence, especially if the person who put them there was District Attorney Gore Bellows (Kelsey Grammer, more or less reprising his dead-eyed Mayor role from Boss), who masterminded her conviction and is now hungry for higher office.  While Madeline works to exonerate the innocent, she also seeks to find out who really killed her friend.

The pilot, however, reaches for melodrama from the start, kicking off with a scene where Madeline travels alone late at night to collect DNA from a burly real killer, who promptly shoots himself in the head.  (Madeline’s response is to check on the welfare of his dog, who she then adopts.)  It isn’t enough that Levi faces prejudice from former friends who still think he’s a killer–one of them literally comes after him with a bat.  In the hearing that drives the procedural portion of the episode, Madeline wins the freedom of the defendant because the translator who took a crucial statement at the time of the arrest turned out to be a psychopath who falsified witness statements against people he believed to be guilty (none of which, apparently, were ever read for the witness at the time).  No sooner does Madeline decide to go out on a date with a hunky old friend reporter (the helpful script has her actually refer to him as a romcom character) than he’s revealed to be a sleaze who wants to write an expose about her.

Proven Innocent is so overdone as to be borderline comic, particularly when Madeline unveils her Carrie Mathison-esque murder board.  (When she discovers a piece of evidence that puts Levi’s innocence into doubt, she solemnly moves his photo to the top of the board.)  Elliot can’t seem to figure out whether his heroine is an admirable rebel or dangerously irresponsible.  The show is redeemed somewhat by the cast, headed by TV veteran Lefevre, and also featuring Russell Hornsby, Nikki M James and Vincent Kartheiser (a long grim way from Mad Men) as members of Madeline’s firm.  Director Patricia Riggen, whose films include the inspirational Miracles From Heaven and The 33, gives the pilot a glossy feel.

The whole point of Proven Innocent is that one shouldn’t rush to a guilty verdict, and perhaps the series will improve over the course of its run.  At this point, though, the prosecution is making an awfully strong case against it.




About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."