CONVICTION - ABC's "Conviction" stars Hayley Atwell as Hayes Morrison. (ABC/Bob D'Amico)

CONVICTION – ABC’s “Conviction” stars Hayley Atwell as Hayes Morrison. (ABC/Bob D’Amico)

Hayley Atwell stars as troubled political daughter Hayes Morrison who is popped for some illegal drugs and as a function of a deal made with her nemesis (but also lust interest) Eddie Cahill’s DA Conner Wallace, she has to run the Conviction Integrity Unit, a rag tag bunch of do-gooders (with secrets, of course) who look into crimes where the convicted feel wrongly or unjustly so. The CIU is made up of Hayes fan girl Tess Larson (Emily Kinney), ex-con Frankie Cruz (Manny Montoya), guy who was supposed to have the job Sam Spencer (Shawn Ashmore), and the wonderful MERRIN DUNGEY (of …Francie doesn’t like coffee ice cream / ALIAS) as Maxine, CIU investigator. As if that wasn’t enough, Hayes’ family consists of Bess Armstrong (MSCL) as dear old Mom and Daniel Franzese as her brother.  A cast list that reads like someone handpicked a few of my favorites, culled them together, and said “here, make this show for Amrie.”

And Atwell is good. She’s very good – smart, funny, playing a character who hates the life she’s been blackmailed into (perhaps not unlike being offered this show as a consolation prize to losing the much better AGENT CARTER, but that’s pure speculation). She embraces her past, relishes in her bad reputation, and has solid chemistry with Eddie Cahill. She’s sometimes cruel, but does it with a smile on her face, so you’re perhaps incorrectly convinced that she’s worth rooting for. But she’s the only real bright spot (well, any Ashmore is always a bright spot, so Spencer is exempt) in a show full of characters and cliches we’ve seen a million times. The ingenue with the mysterious past; the ex-con getting mysterious phone calls from a prison he left behind.  The reporter (who happens to have a romantic interest with the loyal lapdog who was replaced) trying to break the story of the black-mailed CIU boss; the investigator with only cop friends whose icy exterior starts to soften reluctantly.  The tough as nails DA; the cliched political mama.

Somewhere in here, there could be a solid procedural, as it’s an easy to follow show and it is eons above other new non-Shonda drama NOTORIOUS.  If it takes times to work out the kinks (which include but aren’t limited to multiple music montages at the beginning and end of each episode), it could be something worth watching, an ensemble procedural that could replace the now-departed CASTLE, FOREVER, hell BODY OF PROOF, etc. Right now, however, it’s more a slick imposter, trying to convince us they’re wearing the Shondaland Emperor’s new clothes without the background, pedigree, or originality.