"Shark" is a very original serie about a highly successful and really mean lawyer, Sebastian Stark (James Woods), who made a fortune and humiliated virtually every assistant district attorney in LA defending the most evil and despicable (but always very rich) criminals. His agressiveness and lack of scrupules earned him the nickname "Shark". But one day he has a conscience crisis (well, this is just a TV show, so I guess everything is possible...) and accepts to become an assistant district attorney himself, leading a High Profile Crimes Unit in Los Angeles. He finds himself under the orders of DA Jessica Devlin (magnificent Jeri Ryan), who suffered her share of humilaiting defeats against him - and gave him for this new unit a team of young, unexperienced (and not always very bright) ADA's.
The team members are:
- ADA Raina Troy (Sophina Brown), highly idealistic young black woman, who openly despises Stark but being very disciplined and unwilling to transfer stays loyal and obeys orders. Raina is hard working, methodical, calm and reserved - but her antipathy for her boss puts her good manners to a hard trial. Stark likes to shock and tease her, but respects her the most. She is the main stability pillar of the team.
- ADA Casey Woodland (Samuel Page), a young white man, very handsome, born with a silver spoon in his mouth (his dad is a very rich and very prominent politician), he actually doesn't have to work if he doesn't want to - but clearly he got the virus of prosecution and he likes his job. He is very self confident (even arrogant), which makes him less than popular with other team members, especially Raina and Martin Allende... Stark just loves sending him curveballs and pointing at his mistakes, but he appreciates his aggressivity.
- ADA Martin Allende - the youngest and the most delicate team member, is a young Latino guy, the first in his family to go to college and perceiving his work as a mission to help people and the whole society. He is even more idealistic than Raina (to the point of being naive) and working with Stark is a big challenge for him. Stark and Casey made a bet early in the series about his sexual orientation (Stark betting he is straight, Casey arguing he must be gay) and we know the answer just in the middle if the series.
- last but definitely not least - ADA Madeline Poe (Sarah Carter, a jaw dropping beauty) - the most interesting (and the most gorgeous) team member is a hyper ambitious, totally cynical and ultra smart young woman, who asked to work with Stark to learn from the best in the trade. Contrary to Raina and Martin, she simply loves Stark's style and is as ready to play dirty as him - and even one better. She wants to be elected DA before being 40 (like Jessica Devlin, her other role model) and is ready to fight, cheat, lie and kill for it. Her intimate life will probably surprise even the most hardened TV viewers... With Stark himself this is the best character in the series.
The cases treated by the team are mostly interesting, mostly important enough to attract the attention of Manuel Delgado, Mayor of Los Angeles (Carlos Gomez, great second role) himself. Mayor Delgado is also Stark's poker partner, at least once in a week... which comes handy from time to time.
James Woods is of course the reason to watch this series and he really gives a great performance. His characer is so arrogant, mean, aggressive, cynical, that this is a pleasure to watch - especially considering that all this venom is directed against the evil doers (and most of the criminals are really really bad, and even worse, mostly they are rich...).
However, even with all those good points, the series just fall short of a masterpiece. The reason is, I believe, that the creators of the series get scared by their own courage and simply didn't follow the logic to the end. Sebastian Stark is supposed to be a bad, arrogant, cynical person, treating people mainly as source of income and/or entertainement - and every time he could REALLY act his part, the screenplay holds him back or even makes him go backwards. We are supposed to believe, that a man, who defended the worse kind of people, earning big money and trashing victims, witnesses, policemen and prosecutors for nearly 30 years actually never used the services of a call girl when defending all the madams of LA("I just represented them")? Also he is supposed to be ultrasmart - and in EVERY episode he gets in trouble with his witnesses during the trial in EXACTLY the same way! That finally got on my nerves towards the end. Also be warned - the episodes "The wrath of Khan" and "Trail by fire" are probably the most idiotic things I ever saw on TV, the first of them introducing also totally useless changes in the series (in 11th episode!).
Some episodes however are outstanding, especially "Strange Bedfellows", "Russo", "Deja vu all over again" and "Love triangle". In "Russo" you can appreciate a little joke - William Forsythe (Russo) and James Woods (Stark) already played together in "Once upon a time in America" long time ago and it is a great pleasure to see them reunited again, even for one episode. In "Fall from Grace" we can admire Natasha Henstridge as the most gorgeous guest star in the 1 season.
All in all, this is a nice watch and I liked it (with the exception ot two episodes mentioned before) but do not expect the quality of "Law and order", "CSI" or "The shield".