Opening Statements

The Defense Rests

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Photo by Art Streiber

David Feige has come a long way from his days as a New York City public defender. But the Hollywood wunderkind seems to have a hard time leaving it all behind.

All you need to do is ask, and he’ll tell you that the criminal defense system is broken and members of his former profession are never portrayed accurately.

Feige is hoping the public will finally get the real picture with his new television drama, called Raising the Bar.

The series was inspired by Feige’s first-person account of life on the front lines in the Bronx PD’s office, Indefensible, which was published in 2006 by Little, Brown & Co.

The book caught the attention of none other than television producer Steven Bochco, and the two teamed up to write the pilot epi­sode. TNT picked up the show for its prime-time schedule this fall.

What made you want to do the show?

I had been a public defender for a long time, and one of the things that became abundantly clear to me is that the mass media really have no clue why we do what we do. You’re constantly being portrayed as shambling, poorly dressed schlubs who don’t particularly like their cli­ents and basically just phone it in. It’s appalling.

Are you the kind of person who shouts at the TV when you watch legal dramas?

Watch a brief Raising the Bar preview.

I just don’t watch them. I reached my disgusted threshold pretty quickly and cease to be a viewer.

So how will Raising the Bar be different than other legal dramas?

This show takes the perspective that the criminal justice system is bro­ken; it is really not this beautiful, perfect system populated by heroic, jut-jawed prosecutors getting bad guys. It’s a place where justice is rarely, but occasionally, done and it’s driven by politics. When it does hap­pen, it’s merely the con­ven­ient alliance of people’s self-interest. That’s a very unusual perspective, and it’s an important one.

Are you hoping that the show might change how potential jurors view criminal cases?

As polemical as I may sound, that’s not necessarily reflected on the show. It frames questions in different and interesting ways.

Did you have to be reminded of that when you were writing the pilot?

I kind of got it going in, but Steven definitely had to remind me, usually gently. But I also understood that you couldn’t expect to reach millions of viewers the night you premiere with some unabashed polemic.

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