Goliath (season one)

last updated: 13 December 2016 (approximate reading time: 3 minutes; 483 words)

So have you watched Goliath?

No? Well, you should think about it, but not too hard.

It’s an Amazon Original that stars Billy Bob Thornton as Billy McBride, a lawyer. The show was created is David E. Kelley, who also created The Practice, Boston Legal and Ally McBeal among (lots of) others.

Cliché

The setup has pretty much every cliché there could be: Billy McBride was a hotshot lawyer, but he drank—and still drinks—and now is down on his luck, having lost his employment and his wife…but he’s still close to his daughter. He lives (and has his office) in a motel, although he seems to do a lot of work in the bar next door. His best friend is a stray dog and his assistant is also a call girl.

And now he is involved in a wrongful death suit fighting against the firm he cofounded, which is also where his former wife still works. Yeah, it’s too neat, but the neatness creates a closed community where the drama can take place.

Villain

The main villain of the piece is played by William Hurt, who takes the role of Donald Cooperman, McBride’s former partner and now his nemesis. And this is where I started to lose interest…

Hurt’s performance is good, but the character is too much of a villain. He lives in the penthouse above the law firm’s offices, which is kept in near constant darkness and decorated like something from a 1930s noir movie. And that’s before we talk about his burned face and the CCTV cameras he has everywhere.

The law firm where Cooperman is the managing partner and the firm’s client—an arms manufacturer—are fairly standard cardboard cutout firms emblematic of the “evil” corporation. And the case, involving a new weapon, is somewhat implausible and a bit too extreme.

Standout Performances

While the story is linear and pedestrian, the performances are all good. Indeed, there are no bad performances. That said, every character (apart from the ex-wife and the daughter) is a broken down, damaged oddball, which does get a bit wearing.

But, for me, there are two standout performances:

Billy Bob Thornton plays McBride in a quiet, understated way. His version of angry is being quiet…he acts angry and brooding, rather than going for the showy shouting thing. While the character is far from angry all the time, there’s something brooding and simmering under McBride’s seemingly calm exterior.

The second standout performance comes from Nina Arianda, who plays Patty Solis-Papagian, the lawyer who brings McBride the case. She is annoying and chatty (both understatements) and always wants to take the fast buck, but somehow Arianda brings warmth and bombast to the case.

Should You Watch It?

In a word, yes. Watch Goliath for Thornton. Watch it for Arianda. And watch it because it’s entertaining enough. It’s not the best you’ll see, but it’s worth it for the performances.

Filed under