But here's what the Wall Street Journal's Nancy DeWolf Smith has to say.
The only real angels here are the public defenders, most prominently Jerry Kellerman (the Heath Ledgerish Mark-Paul Gosselaar). Kindhearted, brave and, above all, idealistic, they are stuck with defending society's victims against the pitiless, and often unethical, prosecutors. In the first three episodes, all of the defendants are either innocents being framed or railroaded by the judge/prosecutors, or sympathetic characters struggling with major problems and facing punishment all out of proportion with their transgressions.Read her review here.
Typical is a case with "To Kill a Mockingbird" vibes, in which the defendant is a young black student who was lured to the home of a trashy white classmate, seduced by her and then threatened by her white boyfriend until he fought back. Even the prosecutor knows that the defendant is no criminal, but in the world of "Raising the Bar" the deeply flawed justice system must nail him to the wall.
Mr. Bochco has felt compelled to claim that the series takes no side between prosecutors and public defenders, that it gives "equal time to both points of view." Equal screen time may be accurate; yet the images that persist are of defense lawyer Jerry agonizing about his innocent, upstanding (minority) client facing the slammer for rape -- while in another office, a white-goddess prosecutor gyrates teasingly on the lap of her smarmy and cynical white boss.
Finally, the New York Daily News' David Hinckley finds the show entertaining as "straight drama." He notes, "what seems to interest Bochco more, at least in this opening episode, is something about the system itself, the system that sets the unspoken rules under which Kellerman and the typically large ensemble Bochco cast are working. That "something" involves conflicts of interest, mixed loyalties and hidden agendas. In the world of "Raising the Bar," the justice system is a club where everybody knows each other, or is only one degree of separation removed. The characters freely acknowledge this, and have developed a mantra to deal with it: What happens outside the courtroom doesn't matter. Once the judge takes the bench and everyone is seated, the fact the defense attorney knows the prosecutor, or maybe has dated the prosecutor, becomes irrelevant. Justice has its own strict procedures and the outcome of a case is determined solely by the execution of those procedures. All of which, Bochco seems to suggest, is a lie....The pivotal moment that determines the ultimate outcome of the case - whether a man everyone agrees is innocent must still go to jail - revolves around a scene that's subtly filmed, but so cynical and so shockingly unprofessional it will make viewers want to wash their hands." Read his review here.