"All Rise" isn't a guilty pleasure so much as I don't want to miss seeing leads Simone Missick and Wilson Bethel act. The show's frequently got ups and downs, but sincere performances go a long way. The show double-weathered the COVID-19 lockdown, first with an adjusted first season finale, then a second season made during COVID-19 about working during COVID-19. CBS ingloriously canceled the show at the end of the second season—despite the show being about racism and sexism, institutionalized and otherwise, show creator Greg Spottiswood was a sexist, racist piece of shit white guy who made his intentionally diverse staff miserable. CBS owed them and failed.
So Oprah's OWN picked it up, and now, with a couple or three significant changes, "All Rise" is back.
The show's first big change, which it hammers in for the opening five or six minutes, is Missick's recast husband. Used to be Todd Williams, who I rarely liked; now it's Christian Keyes, who's around a lot but doesn't make much impression. He's just a super-supportive husband. It's not even clear he's got a job anymore.
The second big change is the music. Adrian Younge does the music, and there's always music. Unfortunately, no matter the scene, it seems like Younge's filling the background. It's so never godawful, but it's eventually tedious. It distracts from the dialogue at times, which isn't great.
The third big change is the slapstick. There's now some slapstick in "All Rise." Bewildering rom-com-esque slapstick. While I know Missick was pregnant for a lot of season two (another reason they deserved another season), showing off she can do pratfalls or whatever… weird decision.
Especially since the rest of the episode's pretty serious. "All Rise" maintains a genial tone over all else, even when Anne Heche shows up for a minute. She's a low-key white supremacist, high-key fascist who's out to ruin Missick for being, well, a Black woman, actually. It seems like Heche will be season villain, though Missick's already got a new antagonist in Roger Guenveur Smith. Smith (Smiley from Do the Right Thing, and some other Spike Lee movies) is the super-conservative (Black) new supervising judge because Marg Helgenberger's not doing an OWN series where she's third string.
So far, Smith's not a great addition.
They've also lost Reggie Lee (oh, and seemingly Audrey Corsa). Lee played Bethel's supervisor. Bethel doesn't have any cases this episode; instead, he's running the hiring committee for Lee's replacement as punishment for not taking the job. It's far from a good subplot, especially since other parts of the episode are just season premiere delaying devices. Helgenberger takes most of the episode to reveal her departure, everyone's waiting to see if Jessica Camacho's really coming back, and so on.
Samantha Marie Ware's back, working for Lindsey Gort and trying to make Gort and Ryan Michelle Bathe (who Zoom cameos) pay her for her labor. Of course, Ware doesn't understand part of being a lawyer is suffering, so someday you can make someone else suffer. Strange flex. But that subplot is more prominent than anything Bethel's got.
The trial involves J. Alex Brinson—now a public defender—representing a foster kid (Taj Speights) who doesn't want his siblings removed from their first good foster situation, so he's been lying. Complicating it—very, very temporarily—is Lindsay Mendez now playing victims' rights advocate; it's barely a subplot and goes nowhere in the episode because it'd be too difficult.
Hopefully, it's just season premiere, new network jitters, and "All Rise" can find some firmer footing. It's off to a rough start, even taking extremely qualified expectations into account.