How Kelsey Grammer propels new Fox legal drama

The past decade hasn’t been kind to Kelsey Grammer in the series department, with short-lived comedy and drama entries “Back to You,” “Boss,” “Hank,” “Partners” and “The Last Tycoon” dotting his TV resume.

“Proven Innocent” should give him a fighting chance to improve his track record.

This new Fox legal drama from “Empire” co-creator Danny Strong and David Elliot finds Grammer as a shady Chicago prosecutor with the only-on-TV name of Gore Bellows, who’s eyeing a run for Illinois Attorney General. But there’s a roadblock planted firmly in Bellows’ path: crusading criminal defense attorney Madeline Scott (Rachelle Lefevre). She and her brother, Levi (Riley Smith), served 10 years in the slammer after being wrongfully convicted of killing their teenage friend, Rosemary Lynch. The sketchy prosecutor who sent them away? You guessed it: Gore Bellows.

Russell Hornsby as Easy.Adrian Burrows

After being released from prison, Madeline graduated from Yale Law School at the top of her class and founded the Chicago-based Injustice Defense League, working fiercely to free other wrongfully imprisoned people along with her scripture-quoting partner, Easy Boudreau (Russell Hornsby) and investigator Bodie Quick (Vincent Kartheiser). I’m not quite sure what the deal is with the funky first names, but at least they’re interesting.

The still-unsolved Rosemary Lynch murder case rears its ugly head again when Madeline, out to sink Bellows’ political ambitions, squares off against him in court and we’re given brief flashback glimpses of what happened to Rosemary that day (nothing definitive, which would ruin the suspense). It appears the long-ago killing will play a supporting role in the current world of “Proven Innocent” as Madeline starts to question the events of that day. (Cut to the ubiquitous crime-scene-timeline bulletin-board in Madeline’s apartment filled with photos and clippings of potential suspects — including Levi.)

If some of the dialogue here is downright corny — sample: “Are you sure you want to poke the bear?” “No, I want to rip his head off!” — at least it’s offset by a cast that meshes well. Lefevre, in particular, brings a strong note of conviction and believability to Madeline, while Grammer, who’s always good (despite the aforementioned misses), does not disappoint — imbuing the arrogant Bellows with a combination of gravitas and oily smarm. You just know this dude’s got a lot more up his sleeve.

Kartheiser’s Bodie plays like a bearded, modern-day version of Paul Drake (William Hopper) from the old “Perry Mason” series — even bursting dramatically into the courtroom at one point — but if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then “Proven Innocent” has a winning template from which to state its case.

Proven Innocent” premieres Friday, Feb. 15 at 9 p.m. on Fox.

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