Bluff City Law Season 1 Episode 1 Review: Change the World

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Legal procedurals have been part of the television landscape since the '50s.

They're usually not my cup of tea, but then there's Bluff City Law.

There's a lot to love about this series including it's impressive pedigree, but the most compelling aspect is how the overall story makes you feel.

Elijah Knows His Stuff - Bluff City Law Season 1 Episode 1

On Bluff City Law Season 1 Episode 1, we're introduced to a cast of characters who are immediately engaging and funny and bring the stories of hope to life.

Bluff City Law was co-created by Dean Georgaris, the guy behind that other favorite series of mine, the now-canceled The Brave, and Michael Aguilar, a producer on The Departed -- one of the best movies ever.

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Set and shot in Memphis, the magical city is as much a part of the story as its characters.

It's a city with a rich music history, out-of-this-world food, and most importantly -- soul.

Making a Plan - Bluff City Law Season 1 Episode 1

And soul is what best defines this series.

Sydney Strait (Caitlin McGee) is a tough corporate lawyer who, after the death of her mother, decides to rejoin her father Elijah's (Jimmy Smits) law practice -- a legendary firm which specializes in civil rights cases.

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Sydney and Elijah don't necessarily get along. Well, it's more that Sydney despises her father mostly for his adulterous past which comes to play later in the hour.

Anthony Partners Up Well - Bluff City Law Season 1 Episode 1

Yet, he convinces her to come back, so she can help him stand up for the little guy. She's unsure, but she does it anyway, bringing along all her spunk, passion, and genius strategy.

What's most endearing about Sydney is her tenacity in everything she does.

We got a good look at her spirit in the opening minutes of the hour as she systematically ripped apart a plaintiff with raw determination.

Everyone likes to tell you how this work is noble or rewarding. But what they don't tell you is if you lose, it destroys you.


She wanted to win, and she presumably did, but batting for the dark side, as she later called it, eventually tears down your soul.

Even with raw determination, representing the disenfranchised isn't a walk in the park.

Anthony Partners Up Well - Bluff City Law Season 1 Episode 1

In her first case with Elijah's firm, she goes up against the same kind of law firm of which she was a part -- backed by money and power with slimy strategy and an overwhelming sense of entitlement.

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Still, Sydney persevered even as she wavered between absolute confidence and apprehension. 

Fighting Hard - Bluff City Law Season 1 Episode 1

She was cocky when she told her father he had no chance of winning the case before she took it on. And she was even cockier when she changed the firm's whole strategy. 

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It was a strategy that didn't sit well with Anthony who had been working on the case for the last two years.

Look, Sydney. I don't know how this will work as colleagues or as family. But I do know I can teach you how to hold onto your sanity and do this job. And if you can learn how to channel all this passion that you have, Sydney, you can change the world.


Just when Sydney thought she might win, it turned out the very tactics she used against the little guy were being used against her client.

Jake in Charge - Bluff City Law Season 1 Episode 1

Sydney knew the game the other side might play, but it didn't hit home until she heard it with her own ears.

It was a moment of enlightenment for her, and the emotions that crossed her face as Edgar was questioned by the opposing side were incredible.

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She lost hope. All of her feistiness, self-assuredness, and even her cockiness swirled down the drain.

Despite her strained relationship with Elijah, she turned to him for guidance. Not that she had any choice.

He's her boss, but the conversation was the first step towards healing old wounds.

She took his advice to heart because she knows the guy knows what he's doing -- and he's been doing it for a long, long time.

Briana - Bluff City Law Season 1 Episode 1

Besides, Elijah understands Sydney and recognizes her talent. He'll have to balance between being a father and a boss to make it work, but he believes she can change the world.

He believes his entire firm can change the world.

I'm convinced of it. Both times I watched the screener, I cried after the verdict was read.

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It's not that I didn't expect them to win; I did.

But how the story unfolded with all of the elements thrown in from Sydney's family drama to the dynamics of the firm to the side story involving Jake and Robbie makes for some emotionally powerful television.

This is a violation of my civil rights. It's not a petty complaint. Not a nuisance lawsuit. This is about more than apple sauce.

George Bell

Even Della, Emerson, and Briana add to the overall family feeling of this show.

They're all on a mission to right the wrongs of the disenfranchised, and they all work together to foster a feeling of hope for everyone involved.

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For example, Jake could have just thrown in the towel with the George Bell case. He couldn't understand why Elijah gave it to him in the first place other than to pacify him because of Sydney's arrival.

But the thing about Elijah is that he has a deep-seated understanding and feel for the people around him.

Guilty or Innocent - Bluff City Law Season 1 Episode 1

He knows what makes them tick, and he knows they'll eventually find the kernel of hope they were seeking.

Elijah doesn't do it in a manipulative way, although there's some of that embedded in his DNA -- he's a lawyer after all.

But he's compassionate despite his faults, and the desire to do good in the world permeates every bone in his body.

Della - Bluff City Law Season 1 Episode 1

Elijah knew Jake would figure it out, and after bouncing some ideas off of the lovely and wise Della, everything came together.

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It's clear there's going to be a romance somewhere this season. My guess is it'll involve Sydney and Jake, but a love triangle isn't out of the question.

Sydney's ex-husband, a cop named Robbie, isn't just around for eye candy.

The Ex - Bluff City Law Season 1 Episode 1

Adding to that potential chaos is Emerson who accidentally revealed he's Elijah's son at the end of the hour. 

It throws a kink into Sydney's world, but it's a reality she'll have to deal with as she navigates through her new role at her father's firm.

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With all the doom and gloom ever-present every time you turn on the television, Bluff City Law is a shining light.

It's a series filled with gritty determination, passion, and most of all -- hope. And who doesn't need a little hope in their lives?

What did you think of Bluff City Law?

Does it make your must-watch TV list?

Do you have a favorite character yet?

How will Sydney deal with Emerson's revelation?

Let us know your thoughts below!

If you still need to check out this feel-good show, you can watch Bluff City Law online right here via TV Fanatic!

Pilot Review

Editor Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.7 / 5.0 (46 Votes)

Lisa Babick is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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Bluff City Law Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

Elijah: She said: "Why measure yourself by money when you have the chance to change the world."

Everyone likes to tell you how this work is noble or rewarding. But what they don't tell you is if you lose, it destroys you.