You would have thought Mitch McDeere would have learned by now.
Back in the 1993 film “The Firm,” the idealistic young attorney (played by Tom Cruise) helped the Feds bring down the biggest law firm in Memphis with a mob family as its client. The mob boss then set his sights on McDeere and his family, sending them on the run.
Ten years later, in the new TV series “The Firm,” Mitch (played by Josh Lucas, “The Lincoln Lawyer”) is a bit wiser, a bit more worn, a bit more cautious, very broke but fiercely independent and tired of being on the run.
Life for the McDeere family, including wife Abby (Molly Parker taking over the role originally played by Tulsa’s Jeanne Tripplehorn), after years in the witness protection program is supposedly getting back to normal.
The head of the mob family has died in prison and the long-ago death threat with him. McDeere has opened a storefront law practice in northern Virginia with his ex-con brother Ray (Callum Keith Rennie) as his private investigator and Ray’s on-again, off-again, chain-smoking, mini-skirted girlfriend Tammy (Juliette Lewis) as his receptionist – both of whom were also on the run with the family.
On the homefront, the couple’s precocious daughter has finally stayed in one place long enough for her to make friends to invite to a birthday party. Abby has found a job teaching school and Mitch is doing what he loves. But there’s little income from his law practice and an offer from an old friend to join an elite Washington, D.C., firm and head up a new criminal division is awfully tempting. With its resources, McDeere would have all the money he needs to pursue a medical case that could last years. But should he after what happened in Memphis? Has he learned anything?
It’s a question answered in the two-hour pilot episode airing at 8 p.m. Sunday on NBC, channel 2, and then moving to 9 p.m. Thursdays.
To best-selling author John Grisham, “The Firm” as a TV series answers his most-asked question after the book became a bestseller and the Paramount film became such a hit: What happened to the McDeeres? At the end of the film, McDeere thought he was free and the family moved back to Boston. In the TV series, they start over in northern Virginia.
The series comes by its legal chops naturally. The drama based on the writing of Southern lawyer Grisham, a native of Jonesboro, Ark., and written and co-executive produced by Lukas Reiter, a former prosecuting attorney in Queens, N.Y., and former co-executive producer of Dick Wolf’s “Law & Order.”
But, at its heart, it’s a family drama, said Reiter, who shared a recent teleconference with Grisham.
“…It is a legal show within a real sense,” said Reiter, who started his writing career on David E. Kelley’s “The Practice.” “It’s within the legal genre but what I hope makes it feel different is that it’s got a family at its core. This is about Mitch and his wife and their child and his brother and the woman that he loves, Tammy.
“And the way they talk to each other and the way that they relate to each other and the fact that they discuss these cases in the kitchen of the McDeere house (shows that) it’s not a show about lawyers processing legal cases. It’s a story about a family and their lives and their work and what interests them and how they relate to each other.”
But the “The Firm” is also a weekly thriller. Every time Mitch looks out a window viewers will be waiting, watching for anything out of the ordinary. Every car that drives by slowly could be someone sent to kill Mitch or his family. Every backyard outing is an opportunity for a sniper. And that suspense will be ongoing, said Grisham, who has written 27 novels and serves as co-executive producer of the series.
“I love suspense,” he said. “That’s what I write. That’s what I like to watch. That’s what I think about. I’m always trying to create a story that will keep readers up all night turning pages, skipping work, skipping meals. That’s what I strive to do whenever I have a good suspenseful story. The TV show pilot is very much the same way. It’s a lot of action but also a lot of good drama where you see the characters stop and reflect and they’re real people… A lot of good legal intrigue, a lot of courtroom stuff, lawyer-client problems, big law firm intrigue – all the stuff I love to write about.”
Grisham said he hadn’t thought of “The Firm” as a weekly TV series until Reiter approached him with a script and he isn’t worried about the success of the show.
“I’m not worried because I’m convinced the show is going to be a success but also, personally, I’ve had so much success because of that one book that nothing could worry me about it now. The book was published 20 years ago in 1991. The movie came out two years later in 1993. It was a big box office success. It’s still the highest-grossing movie domestic and worldwide of any of the eight or nine films that have been adapted from my books. And it’s sold between 15 and 20 million copies in 40 languages.
“… So, believe me, I’ve had my share of success from the original story. What we’re doing now is, to me, just pure fun to watch it on TV.”