JULIETTE LEWIS, RYAN PHILLIPPE

ABC seems to be making a strong push this midseason. Following a less-than-stellar fall which saw the quick cancellations of two of its comedies, Fresh Off the Boat recently premiered to respectable numbers. However, though loved by a cult of fans, musical-comedy Galavant underwhelmed during its run on Sunday nights. So next up in the post-Once Upon a Time slot is the new drama Secrets and Lies.  

Secrets and Lies follows the events that unfold after a young child’s alleged murder shakes up a seemingly close-knit neighborhood.  Eyes quickly turn to the man who first discovered the lifeless body, Ben Crawford (played by Ryan Phillippe).  Leading the charge against Crawford is a Detective Andrea Cornell (Juliette Lewis) who spends most of the pilot either dropping in on the Crawford residence or requesting his presence at the station.

Even as friends and neighbors turn their backs on him, Crawford’s wife (KaDee Strickland) and two daughters (Indiana Evans and Belle Shouse) stand by his innocence.  Adding some comic relief to this nightmare scenario is Crawford’s buddy and nuisance house guest, Dave (Dan Fogler).  As the investigation rolls on, the secrets and lies alluded to in the show’s (rather generic) title begin to present themselves which naturally adds fuel to the fire.

RYAN PHILLIPPE, KADEE STRICKLAND

At first glance it would seem that the premise of Secrets and Lies treads closely with ABC’s American Crime which also debuts this week.  After all, both revolve around the aftermath of a murder.  But unlike Crime, Secrets focuses less on an ensemble of characters but mostly on Crawford.  In fact, despite the murder at its center, the series is nearly a family drama at heart.

Secrets doesn’t strive to be anything overly original, seeing as it’s even an American version of an Aussie series of the same name.  Yet, I found myself more engaged in the two episodes I screened of Secrets than those I previewed of the far more hyped Crime.  A lot of this is probably a credit to the chemistry of the show’s stars, Phillippe and Lewis.  While Phillippe makes a convincing family man, Lewis’s portrayal of a no BS investigator is as gripping as it is frustrating.  Depending on whose side you take, you may want to punch one of the characters through your TV at some point during the show’s runtime.

The other reason I personally preferred Secrets to Crime  is simply the subject matter.  I may not exactly be squeamish, but I’m not a big fan of the violence and drug use found in the successful cable shows that the darker American Crime  strives to mimic.  Instead of pushing them, Secrets seems mostly content to play within the boundaries of its network status and 9 p.m. time slot.

Though there is always the question of sustainability, Secrets and Lies’ premiere did a more than sufficient job of convincing me that its 10 episode initial run will offering a compelling story.  With elements of Gone GirlGone Baby Gone, and a dash of procedurals not involving Ben Affleck, Secrets and Lies proves a winning formula even if it is just that; a formula.

Secrets and Lies premieres Sunday, March 1 at 9 p.m. on ABC