There are few do-overs in life, but O.J. Simpson prosecutor Marcia Clark gets one – even if it’s fictionalized – with “The Fix,” an ABC drama that hews just closely enough to that case to spur interest before veering into an exaggerated lane. NBC, meanwhile, drives straight into a creative cul-de-sac with “The Village,” which desperately wants to mirror “This Is Us” and merely provides a reminder that it takes a village, sometimes, to mess up a TV show.
Clark shares producer credit on “The Fix,” which focuses on a former prosecutor, Maya Travis (Robin Tunney), who lost her most famous case: The racially charged trial of a British movie star, Severen “Sevvy” Johnson (“Lost’s” Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), who was found not guilty of a double murder in 2010.
When Sevvy is suspected again of a new slaying, Maya is called out of retirement by her former colleague (“Tyrant’s” Adam Rayner), who shows up at the rural community where she’s taken refuge and tantalizingly says, “He did it again. You have to come back, Maya.”
Well, who wouldn’t want a shot at redemption? Still, the O.J. echoes gradually fade as “The Fix” layers on the melodrama and loads up the fridge with red herrings, garnished with office politics and Sevvy’s extended circle, including his grown (and in some instances, estranged) children.
In essence, “The Fix” uses the “trial of the century” as a come-on, and a means of differentiating this latest serialized mystery from recent ABC series (see “Secrets and Lies” and “Ten Days in the Valley”) cut from a similar cloth.
Perhaps foremost, the show is smartly cast – not only in terms of the leads but around the edges, including Scott Cohen as Sevvy’s sleazy defense attorney (given the production auspices, would there be any other kind?) and Robin Givens as the actor’s ex-wife, whose loyalty comes at a price.
It’s hard to assess the show’s timing, more than 23 years after the Simpson trial ended, but only three years removed from FX’s limited series based on that case. If Clark and her collaborators do enjoy the thrill of victory ratings-wise, it would suggest that when it comes to sensational crime, maybe you can win for losing.
While the concept for “The Fix” is crystal clear, “The Village” is the dramatic equivalent of a Netflix recommendation – the equivalent of “If you just watched ‘This is Us,’ you might like this.”
The basic template, however, is scattered to the point of disjointed, built around the diverse denizens of an apartment building in Brooklyn, where neighbors help each other out.
Not surprisingly given the premise, a lot of help is needed. The various plots include a military veteran (Warren Christie) who has recently returned from war, a foreign-born mother (another “Tyrant” alum, Moran Atias) trying to protect her young son after being seized by immigration enforcement, and the couple that serves as the glue for the whole complex (Frankie Faison, Lorraine Toussaint), dispensing homespun wisdom.
The main problem is “The Village” feels like it’s trying too hard – as if the show was developed specifically to try replicating the warm fuzzies that its lead-in, “This is Us,” regularly delivers, transparently wrapped in a “family is what you make of it” message.
In the old days, coveted primetime real estate behind an established hit might have been enough to give “The Village” a fighting chance. But in today’s media environment, a show this bland is well-advised not to sign a long-term lease.
“The Fix” premieres March 18 at 8 p.m. on ABC.
“The Village” premieres March 19 at 10 p.m. on NBC.