All Rise

All Rise season 3 return champions progressive, thought-provoking television

All Rise is back from the dead, having been resurrected by OWN after CBS cancelled the series this spring. It’s a fantastic development for a series that never quite got its due, perhaps because it gave more to viewers than just entertainment and wanted the audience to expect more of ourselves.

The show put in practice everything that people have been talking about, and discussed everything that viewers had been struggling with. In a time clamoring for diversity it featured the most diverse cast on television. There were main characters not just of different races and ethnic backgrounds, but from different social classes, who were of different age groups and sexual orientations, and who represented different points of view. Everyone could see themselves in at least one character; truthfully, it was probably more.

Just as importantly, diversity was simply part of the show’s fabric and not diverse for diversity’s sake. There wasn’t any character added in just to have someone from that background or that group. All of them were equally well-developed and given the same opportunities to shine. And the show never pigeonholed its characters based on their racial or gender identity, or trumpeted its inclusiveness. All Rise had an amazing group of people who just happened to be diverse. They were seen and heard for who they were, not what they were.

That set the tone for incredible storytelling that made a point of being relevant. All Rise was the first TV show to do a COVID-19 quarantine episode. It tackled the Black Lives Matter protests. It had a multi-episode story arc about police corruption. It pulled out plots that mattered, and not just to do an episode or two. Audiences saw the real world depicted on their screens and saw how characters were affected by what happened. Luke Watkins (wonderfully played by J. Alex Brinson) completely pivoted his career based on his experiences. A lot of shows talk about being topical, but usually that happens for an hour and everyone moves on. All Rise evolved as the world around us evolved, and it was a much better show for it, because it felt real.

Here’s where I’m going to climb on my soapbox for a second: some people say that television is an escape. Some people don’t want their TV shows reflecting reality. One only has to look at all the Internet comments disliking COVID-19 storylines to see that. That is a valid opinion, but there is another side to that. That side is that we can always ask for more. Television, like any other art, can have something to say and can inspire us to use our own voices. You can reach millions of people with one hour of live television, more if you count those who see an episode afterward on DVR or streaming. That’s a huge platform and so why not use it?

All Rise is a great piece of entertainment. If you strip away all the heavy stuff, it’s still got an incredible cast including two Tony Award winners in Lindsay Mendez and Ruthie Ann Miles. The banter between Simone Missick and Wilson Bethel is worth the price of admission alone. It does deliver good stories and it hits the right balance between drama and injecting a proper bit of levity. It also managed to avoid so many tropes of modern legal dramas, such as the law taking a back seat to characters’ wants or relationships, or the inability to write a platonic male-female friendship. It’s a quality TV show and that’s reason alone to bring it back.

But the reason why it matters in a big-picture sense is that All Rise has a voice. Every cancelled show has a passionate fan base. This show certainly has that, but it also has the ability to speak beyond that. It enabled us to have a place to go with our thoughts and fears on big issues, even if it was just talking to ourselves while watching an episode. It practiced what it preached, showing characters who embraced instead of excluded, and who were allowed to fail but learned from their mistakes. It was a positive show instead of a cynical one. All Rise season 3 isn’t only a victory for the fans; it’s a victory for everybody who wants something unique on TV.

However, as fans celebrate the show’s return, we should also be mindful of what it means. Here’s some inside baseball: it’s not just being excited that there will be new episodes; there are going to be new challenges, too. The most prominent is moving from a broadcast network to a cable channel. CBS has a much broader reach because it’s one of the five broadcast networks; OWN is a cable network, so it’s going to have a smaller footprint in general. It’s not going to make the show into a smash hit.

Season 3 will be available on HBO Max and Hulu, but the renewal announcement is vague about how long that will take. The end result is some viewers will have to pay extra to watch the new season, either to subscribe to a cable package that includes OWN or to sign up for one of the streaming services. And how many fans won’t want to, or may not be able to? It’s important that everyone have reasonable expectations for the new season as it’s going to be on a whole different playing field. There may be a smaller audience overall, the advertising may need awhile to pick up steam… this is a process, not an immediate solution.

The one thing All Rise viewers must continue to have high standards about is the quality of the show. Just because most of the cast is coming back (the notable exception being Marg Helgenberger) doesn’t mean that it’s going to be the exact same series. All Rise season 2 ended with a finale that read like a reboot, with people changing jobs and relationships in very big ways. So at the least season 3 is going to start in a very different place.

And when a series moves to a new network—particularly one with a specific brand like OWN—it can shift significantly. An example of this is The Game; when it migrated from The CW to BET, it changed creatively in tone and how it wrote the characters, and it never felt like the same show.

That can’t happen with All Rise. Television needs it to be the series that it already is. If season 3 comes with changing the characters, or playing too much toward one audience instead of including and championing all points of view, or turning it into another soapy procedural, then it defeats the purpose of bringing the show back. All Rise is brilliant because it dares to speak up about timely issues, is willing to speak for every group, and is performed with class and heart. Fans shouldn’t just thank OWN for the pickup; we should continue to use our voices (i.e. social media) to support the show, discuss the show, and speak up if something doesn’t feel right. That’s what Judge Lola Carmichael would do.

OWN picking up All Rise season 3 means that the network sees the value in the series and its ability to make our world a little bit better. This is the beginning; the next step is making the most out of this new opportunity.

All Rise season 3 is expected to premiere on OWN in 2022.

Article content is (c)2020-2021 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr, on Instagram at @BFTVGram.

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