GOLIATH: A slingshot loaded with compelling legal drama

TV Series Review by Lew Ritter

GOLIATH is an old fashioned legal drama created by David E. Kelley and Jonathan Shapiro. It is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Both co-creators are veteran writers with extensive legal and TV writing background. David E. Kelley is the veteran writer/producer with extensive credits going back to the 80’s with shows such as L.A. LAW, PICKET FENCES and more recently BOSTON LEGAL.

GOLIATH is about a down and out lawyer taking on a simple case that uncovers a far more deadly conspiracy. The stakes are higher than expected not only for the client but for the protagonist, Billy McBride, who needs the win in order to jumpstart his career and give him back his life.

Billy Bob Thornton plays Billy, a onetime powerhouse lawyer, whose career has fallen on hard times. At the beginning of the series, he has just been released from jail. As a Public Defender, he is too drunk to even remember his client’s name. He even wears a sleep apnea machine in bed. He lives in a dilapidated suite of rooms in a seedy motel in a once trendy section of Santa Monica and spends his days drinking in a dive bar and chasing small civil cases to earn a living.

The irony is that McBride was a co-founder of Cooperman-McBride, a Goliath of a law firm with branches all around the world. This time out, he is hired to handle a simple civil suit to obtain modest damages for a family whose husband committed suicide aboard a boat.

Billy, however, quickly uncovers discrepancies in testimony that expose a more sinister conspiracy by Cooperman-McBride. Its client is Born Tech, a defense contractor with deep pockets and even darker secrets. The official report indicates that the man’s boat blew up. However, the video captured by a nearby fishing vessel indicates a multi- magnitude explosion that created a huge tidal wave which nearly capsized the fishing boat.

The story features Billy and his spunky band of legal eagles as David taking on Goliath. Billy takes the case in order to get back at Donald Cooperman, his former partner. Cooperman had suffered some unexplained accident that left burn marks on half his face. He rarely leaves the confines of his office and spends most of the day spying on his employees.

The series is full of terrific scenes depicting complex legal maneuvers and sparring over the testimony of witnesses. The lead attorney/partner on the case argues with Cooperman to drop the case and settle before the case explodes. At every turn, she is overturned by Cooperman’s hatred and disdain for Billy.

The disdain proves to be totally unfounded. Every time the Cooperman lawyers attempt to place a legal stumbling block in Billy’s path, he outmaneuvers them. At the end of Episode Two, the judge dismisses the case on a legal technicality. Billy lambastes the judge for bias. The enraged judge charges Billy with hefty fines for contempt of court. However, there is a method to Billy’s madness. It allows Billy to introduce new evidence and keep the case open.

Thornton is at the top of his game as Billy McBride. Thornton is an A-List actor, who dominates any scenes that he is in. He brings a surprising depth and aura of menace to his role. He is capable of dealing with the same unscrupulous tactics needed in order to defeat his adversaries at the Cooperman firm.

The standout cast includes Maria Bello, as Billy’s embittered, ex-wife and Nina Ariana as Billy’s spunky partner. She’s fearless and hilarious as a low- rent lawyer/real estate agent who brought Billy into the case. Tania Raymond is winning as the vulnerable Brittany Gold. Harold Perrineau is a standout as the judge who manages the courtroom circus with his dignity intact.

GOLIATH never stops providing surprising plot twists and great episode ending cliffhangers. At the end of Episode Two, after winning a small victory, one of the characters is struck down by a hit and run meant for McBride. At the end of Episode Three, the reclusive Cooperman lures one of the young associates up to his penthouse office to seduce her. And at the end of the series, the mega law firm is served a well- deserved defeat.

The show is a solidly entertaining legal thriller that benefits from Billy Bob’s strong lead character. The writing gives us as many compelling characters as plot twists, and even a happy ending, with Billy McBride seemingly back on course as a successful lawyer.

There are, however, other plot threads left dangling that support a potential Season Two. The show doesn’t break new ground, but it delivers a good dose of binge-watching pleasure that I look forward to re-experiencing when Amazon brings it back.


Lew Ritter is a TVWriter™ Contributing Writer. Learn more about him here.