Programming Review: ‘Defending Jacob’

Apple TV Plus continues to build its scripted series credentials with a new drama/ mystery series, Defending Jacob.

The streaming series features an impressive cast, including Chris Evans (Captain America: The First Avenger) and Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey), who star as Andy and Laurie Barber, typical suburban parents of a smart, unassuming teenage son, Jacob Barber (Jaeden Martell). Andy is the town’s assistant district attorney, thrust into a mystery when a teenage boy is found murdered in a local park.

Andy’s involvement in the investigation is initially questioned, given his close relationship with the family and the fact that his son knew the victim, but he continues on the case. Partnered with detective Paula Duffy (Betty Gabriel), Andy begins to question the local teens in an effort to seek information as to the boy’s death.

As clues to the murder begin to surface, they ultimately start to point to one suspect, Jacob, which throws the dynamics of family life for Andy and Laurie for a complete loop as they contemplate whether their offspring could be guilty of such a heinous crime.

The eight-part series will keep viewers on edge as the question of Jacob’s innocence or guilt tips one way or the other with every new revelation about the murder and with the efforts of Jacob’s parents to instinctively protect their son, even though he could be involved. In fact, the series begins with a conflicted and exhausted-looking Andy Barber being interrogated in front of a grand jury several months after the murder, setting the stage for a proverbial roller-coaster ride of a mystery.

Apple TV Plus will stream the first three episodes of Defending Jacob — based on the best-selling novel of the same name by William Landay — on April 24, with subsequent episodes streaming weekly.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.