SPOILER ALERT: This article contains details of tonight’s virtually made All Rise season finale.
The most shocking thing about tonight’s remotely produced All Rise is how quickly the artifice of the Season 1 finale of the Simone Missick-led legal drama becomes the backdrop to a very well-crafted tale of our coronavirus pandemic Los Angeles times.
After weeks of safer-at-home orders here in the City of Angels and an almost overabundance of Zoom series reunions, virtual table reads and benefit specials, the end of the not-yet-renewed All Rise had all the hallmarks to be a contrived bore. Yet, with the limitations of social distancing defining the format and the narrative, too, that is the complete opposite of what the episode, “Dancing at Los Angeles,” penned by Greg Spottiswood and Greg Nelson, nicely turns out to be.
No real spoilers here, though, because I do think you should tune in tonight to the CBS drama to see a bit of small-screen history in action.
Pulled together in inspiration after production came to a halt in Hollywood in late March, the Michael M. Robin-directed finale is remarkably fast-paced by necessity. It is very much on point too in terms of the weighed-down court system, and I say that as the guy who primarily covers the courts for Deadline as well as the TV Reviews beat.
With video arraignments now in place in the vast L.A. Superior Court system, plus much of the public banned because of the health crisis and a backlog that could last for years — the series touches on all of that tonight — All Rise bent technology and the real conditions leading to chaos in the courts and risk in the county prisons into a finale that may give “ripped from the headlines” a whole new standard to meet.
In that vein, opening with beauty shots of deserted morning downtown Los Angeles streets, thank yous for frontline healthcare workers, first responders, delivery drivers, the “men and women stocking food on our shelves,” the sick and the recovering and those behind bars, this Season 1 finale of the show from Warner Bros TV and CBS TV Studios actually has all the feels of a new beginning: Co-starring Marg Helgenberger, J. Alex Brinson Jessica Camacho, Wilson Bethel, Lindsey Gort, L. Scott Caldwell, Ruthie Ann Miles, Lindsay Mendez, Peter MacNicol and Todd Williams as the FBI-employed spouse to Missick’s activist Judge Lola Carmichael, All Rise’s loss of much of the conventions of network TV tonight might not be a bad new normal for the sometimes-staid show.
Forfeiting a Frankensteined finale for original content — amidst not so beauty shots of the city’s Skid Row and the vast Twin Towers Jail — a virtual bench trial provides the impetus for “Dancing at Los Angeles.”
Looking quite true to life in a real-life process that is still evolving in stops and starts in the state and federal courts, All Rise finds a nice balance in tonight’s very watchable episode. Yes, there are a few glitches, slip-ups and heavy-handed effects that Robin and other EPs would have probably liked to avoid. But’s there is also Captain Crunch binge-eating, back-deck workouts, sex toy gifting, intentionally crappy ceiling shots, quips about wearing pants and the deep convos about the anxieties our current COVID-19 and shelter-in-place lives are taking on the show’s characters and our city to make the whole thing feel very real.
And then there’s the tunes and tones of DJ. Tailwind. Played by Dorian Missick, the fellow Luke Cage alum, Tell Me a Story cast member and real-life husband of All Rise’s judicial lead, the online performer is a fitting Greek chorus of sorts for tonight’s finale. Again, no spoilers, but with Tailwind in the tradition of the great work of DJ D-Nice, The Roots’ Questlove and many more over these weeks of lockdown, tonight’s All Rise ends with a dance party and a slate thanking “all the essential workers and the heroes working the front lines” – just like it should.
Stay safe, be healthy and wear a mask.