Remember the movie “Erin Brokovich”? Twenty years ago it won an Oscar for Julia Roberts who played the real-life, kick-ass consumer advocate of the same name.
It’s been more-or-less made over as a TV series called Rebel starring Katie Sagal (The Conners, Sons of Anarchy). Sagal, 67, is well cast; she’ made a career playing a person not to be fooled with. The series premieres Thursday night at 10 p.m. on CTV and ABC.
As the tag line goes: “She’s not a cop. She’s Not a Lawyer. She’s just a badass.”
It’s a formula that has worked for another series which started in 2021, The Equalizer. That series has gotten off to a good start, ratings-wise, both in the U.S. and Canada, and has already been renewed. Viewers seem ready to embrace middle-aged woman who right wrongs, shoot first and talk later. Hey, we’ve had 70 years of middle-aged men doing this on TV, so hell yes.
The series also stars Andy Garcia, John Corbett, James Lesure, Tamala Jones, Lex Scott Davis and others. The creator and executive producer is Krista Vernoff (Grey’s Anatomy), who, in a missive to critics, said she hopes the show offers viewers “some light in the darkness; some humor, some connection and maybe even some inspiration. But, most of all, I hope you all just go for the ride and enjoy the hell out of it.”
Brokovich is among the executive producers. Sagal isn’t playing her in name, but she is playing a blue collar legal advocate named Annie “Rebel” Bello. She’s playing somebody not afraid to stand up for the little guys and gals, even if she has to get her nails dirty.
“Mom’s got to go get arrested,” she tells her grown daughter on the way out the door. “There’s leftovers in the fridge and bail money in the sock drawer.”
In the movie, Albert Finney played the broken-down lawyer who eventually sees the value of having a hurricane like Brokovich on his team. On this series, Garcia (who plays Julian Cruz) has the same role but better suits.
“I admire you,” he tells Bello, “but I prefer to admire you from afar, through binoculars, on an expedition, once a year.”
The times are right for shows where a fiesty, fearless woman is evening the odds. In the opening episode, Bello is fighting for people whose lives have been endangered due to wonky heart valves from evil (and fictional) Big Pharma. There are the requisite scenes of hand-holding and promises of justice.
In a way, Segal and Latifah are the middle-aged Avengers, righting wrongs for a boomer audience looking for an hour of action and comfort on network TV.
As Corbett’s character, bad-boy third-husband Grady Bello says, “Rebel’s a force, but she’s saving the world.”
Settle in, therefore, secure in the knowledge that things get tied together with soaring, inspirational music in all the right spots.
There’s nothing even remotely rebelious about Rebel as a network TV formula, but it absolutely delivers on what it is and besides — “Conventional Procedural” is a lousy show title.