Doubt

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Doubt TV Poster Image
Atypical legal drama's diverse cast bolsters tepid plot.

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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive messages

The show presents the practice of law as a complex life choice that often requires people to reconsider ethical and legal issues. Answers are rarely simple, and different life experiences influence different opinions. A strong, accomplished woman is central to the story, tasked with defending a challenging case. The inclusion of a transgender character adds to the diversity in the cast. Themes include balancing what you believe to be right with the duties of your job and viewing the law through the prisms of people's unique circumstances. Characters show empathy toward their clients and work for their best interests.

Positive role models & representations

Most characters are intelligent and motivated to succeed, but their business is less about finding the truth than about achieving the best results for their clients. A main figure's honesty is constantly in question. Amoral and illegal actions don't always yield negative consequences when skilled lawyers are involved.

Violence

Flashback scenes show a bloodied corpse. Murder is a central factor in the plot, so there's a lot of discussion about how a woman was killed and by whom.

Sex

Flirting and a developing affection between main characters. Some kissing.

Language

"Damn," "ass," "hell," and "pissed off" frequently part of casual dialogue.

Consumerism
Drinking, drugs & smoking

Alcohol drinking and smoking without negative effects.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Doubt is a legal drama series that deals with murder and other mature issues. A sympathetic main character's honesty about his past is always in doubt, putting the reputation of his most outspoken defender, his lawyer, in question, too. A diverse cast includes a transgender woman in a prominent role. Expect discussions about murder and some flashback scenes that show the victim's body. There's also some strong language ("damn," "hell," "ass"). For those who like legal dramas, the fact that this series follows one case that evolves over time makes for a unique addition to the genre.

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What's the story?

DOUBT stars Katherine Heigl as Sadie Ellis, a tireless New York lawyer defending pediatric surgeon Billy Brennan (Steven Pasquale) against accusations of murdering his girlfriend some 24 years ago. As the case progresses and facts call into doubt Billy's innocence, Sadie nonetheless finds herself falling for her client, who emphatically denies his guilt. When it's not focused on Billy's case, the show involves other courtroom drama and the lighter side of the law firm headed by principled legal warrior Isaiah Roth (Elliott Gould).

Is it any good?

As legal dramas go, this one is a bit of an anomaly, following a single case over all its episodes and including a forbidden lawyer-client relationship. Doubt is compelling in parts and humorous in fleeting moments, and there's always much intrigue surrounding Billy's past and whether he's really telling Sadie the truth about the case.

In an attempt to not belabor the dominant storyline too much, Sadie's law partners' lives and careers are introduced in increments to keep the content fresh. Some are more interesting than others, but most raise ethical issues that don't have simple answers and encourage viewers to ponder their own feelings on the subjects. Altogether, though, this makes for a somewhat jumbled plot that's not entirely fluid to watch. Perhaps the most notable character is Cameron Wirth, a transgender woman and hardworking lawyer (played by Laverne Cox), whose presence marks a significant network-TV first.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Doubt presents female characters. Are they on par with men in the workplace? Do they enjoy healthy relationships with coworkers and friends? Does this resonate with your experiences of girls and women at work, at school, and in social settings?

  • What do you make of Sadie and Billy's feelings for each other? Are they entirely innocent, or does one want something from the other? What are the challenges of mixing business and pleasure in a situation like this one?

  • How does this legal drama stack up against predecessors such as Law & Order? How realistic are these shows in general?

  • What effect does a cast's diversity have on its messages about empathy?

TV details

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