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Josh Lucas dials up paranoia in NBC's 'The Firm'

January 6, 2012 |  2:10 pm

We have no idea how NBC will do with its new legal drama "The Firm," but "The pay phone represents his paranoia" might go down as one of the all-time great TV showrunner quotes.

The line was uttered Friday afternoon at the semi-annual TV press tour in Pasadena by Lukas Reiter, the executive producer behind the new adaptation of John Grisham's bestseller, which was already made into a 1993 movie starring Tom Cruise. This time around, young lawyer on the run Mitch McDeere is played by movie actor Josh Lucas, who covered all his bases at the panel by extravagantly praising Cruise's performance while still finding time to drop extravagant praise on the art of TV drama today.

It was clear early on that "The Firm" session would not go well. The TV adaptation is set in the present day, years after the events described in the novel. Critics were puzzled why the pilot seems to ignore technology since 1991, when the book was published. One wondered why Mitch was still using his real name after years in witness protection, and furthermore why mob heavies chasing him didn't simply use Google to help track him down.

Reiter did his best to explain that away as the audience titterered, but other critics brought up more discrepancies. Costar Juliette Lewis squirmed in her chair, but it was hard to tell whether that was due to the line of questioning or to some unknown personal issue. The best question: Why does Mitch resort to using a pay phone, a dated technology that has virtually disappeared from most streets?

Reiter's first parry -- "The pay phone represents his paranoia" -- elicited some giggles in the room, as well as some scathing commentary on Twitter. ("This session so badly needs a surprise Cylon attack," tweeted Hollywood Reporter critic Tim Goodman.) Then Reiter tried again: "If Mitch McDeere can't find a pay phone at this point in his career, we're all in trouble."

What do you mean "we," Lukas?

The anachronisms may not matter. Or maybe they will. In any case, viewers will have plenty of time to make up their minds, as NBC has already given "The Firm" a 22-episode order. Mitch McDeere, phone home! But use your cell.


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Photo: Lukas Reiter, far left, of NBC's "The Firm" with cast members, from left, Molly Parker, Josh Lucas, Juliette Lewis and Callum Keith Rennie. Credit: Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images.