Bruce Fretts
October 11, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Murder One

TV Show
Current Status
In Season
Dylan Baker, Steven Bochco, Missy Crider, Daniel Benzali, Jason Gedrick, John Fleck, Anthony LaPaglia, Mary McCormack, Ralph Waite, Stanley Tucci
Drama, Crime

We gave it a B

Law & Order has survived drastic cast changes, but can Murder One pull off the same trick? Judging from ”Chapter One” of the second season, the verdict is a definite maybe.

Attempting to court more viewers — a tall order, since ABC seems intent on killing Murder by slating it opposite Seinfeld — executive producer Steven Bochco has replaced smooth-scalped Daniel Benzali with hirsute Anthony LaPaglia as the lead lawyer. It’s a smart move. The gravel-voiced LaPaglia can muster the necessary intensity, but unlike Benzali, he’s not afraid to crack a smile. And by making LaPaglia a former D.A. who switches tables, Murder offers a character who’s as ambivalent about defense attorneys as most post-O.J. Americans are.

With Benzali’s Ted Hoffmann on an indefinite vacation trying to patch up his marriage, LaPaglia’s name Wyler moves into his office and inherits most of his associates (including the slyly appealing Mary McCormack as ambitious Justine Appleton). His first case (of this season’s three) is a juicy one: A scorned lover (Missy Crider) accused of offing California’s governor and his new mistress.

My one objection? Casting Ralph Waite as a wheeler-dealer who tries to purchase Wyler’s favor. When it comes to exuding shadowy malice, The Waltons‘ Pa is no Stanley Tucci. B

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