Mitch McDeere wants to warn us: ''It's happening again.'' So says the beleaguered lawyer (played by Josh Lucas) during a frantic phone call to his wife, Abby (Molly Parker), in The Firm, NBC's update of John Grisham's 1991 best-seller. What exactly ''it'' is Mitch doesn't say, though we can imagine. Ten years ago, while working for a Mob-backed firm, he helped the FBI bring down his bosses. Now, he's just outrun a gang of power-suited Washington, D.C. thugs. Apparently, the mob has a long memory and so does NBC.
The Firm picks up ten years after the events of the 1993 film starring Tom Cruise ended: Mitch and his family are out of witness protection, reestablishing a normal life, and starting a new practice. But another shady firm, Kinross & Clark, is pushing hard to acquire Mitch's business, and he's starting to suspect that he's being watched All of this makes it very difficult for Mitch to take on new clients, like the alleged middle-school murderer he defends in the pilot. It seems every episode will find him running some version of the same to do list: 1. Get coffee. 2. Solve case of the week. 3. Flee shadowy malefactors in high-speed chase.
For a supposed update, The Firm sometimes feels like a relic from a bygone era. Mitch uses a pay phone, not a cell phone, to make that urgent call to Abby. Abby is incredulous that a woman is in charge at Kinross & Clark. (Associate: ''That's Alex Clark. She runs our litigation team.'' Abby: ''She?'') And Mitch's assistant, Tammy (played with incredibly amusing can-I- smoke-in-here? trashiness by Juliette Lewis), dresses like she lives in a world where sexual harassment lawsuits don't exist. But The Firm's quaintness can be a virtue: Mitch is such an old-school, self-made hero he was raised by a coal miner and a waitress (!) and worked hard to graduate near the top of his class at Harvard that you can't help but root for him. And at a time when the procedural format is constantly being reinvented with fairy-tale detectives and psychic intelligence agents, The Firm's straightforward, one-man-against-the-system story still feels compelling especially when that one man happens to look like a Tom Ford model and yet comes off as totally relatable. It's been a while since Hollywood dusted off the trope of the scrappy, Everyman lawyer fighting against Big Corruption. But if you've missed more traditional courtroom dramas, you'll be glad that Mitch is right: It's happening again. B