"The Whole Truth," which premieres Wednesday on ABC, offers Maura Tierney as New York City prosecutor Kathryn Peale and Rob Morrow as go-to defense attorney Jimmy Brogan, who, like Perry Mason and his perpetual opposing counsel Hamilton Burger, incredibly find themselves locked in weekly opposition. The novel twist is that sometimes one will win and sometimes the other.
Jerry Bruckheimer is the producer, and most of what goes on here is a few clicks louder than life. Apart from the concept itself — which, though it beats at your head like an angry bird, is certainly airworthy — the hour's main attractions are Tierney and Morrow, who keep their own volume at a reasonable level, even when made to say things like "Fasten your seat belt, Jimmy" and "Game on, Katie. Bring it!"
All their best scenes are with one another and have less to do with whatever case they're contesting than with their shared personal history — the characters are old friends, maybe lovers — and teasingly suggested future. The crimes, by contrast, are not particularly compelling, even when they are sensational, and feel invented merely to let the stars talk.
The show proceeds in cross-cut parallels and mirror images. She has a reputation for "terrifying" her staff; he shoots pool with his, in the office.
"You've got me and everything in my toolbox to defend you against this witch hunt," Jimmy swears to a teacher accused of murdering a student.
"I will use every legal means in my power to convict your daughter's killer," Kathryn assures the grieving parents.
And to each other:
"Miss Peale, I remember when you were trying token suckers in Misdemeanorland."
"I remember when you were bagging undergrads in off-campus housing." And so on. Token-sucking, by the way, is a now-obsolete, disgusting method of getting on the subway free. (And Misdemeanorland is not a real place.)
During the closing arguments, we flash back to clips of earlier testimony, prompting us to decide which we trust, as if we ourselves were on the jury. Which, of course, we are.