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Series / Shark

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"Your job is to win. ... Justice is God's problem."
Sebastian Stark

Shark is an American legal drama created by Ian Biederman that originally aired on CBS from September 21, 2006, to May 20, 2008. The show revolved around Sebastian Stark, played by James Woods. Stark is a notorious Los Angeles amoral defense attorney who grows disillusioned with his career and becomes a prosecutor at the mayor's suggestion. Stark's relationship with the Los Angeles District Attorney's office, his staff, and his daughter forms the central plot for the series.


  • Abusive Parents: A defendant charged with kidnapping claimed the kid's parents were this. It didn't help the parents the boy ran away before the trial and the defendant's lawyer brought up evidence they had previously hid an injury the kid suffered to avoid rumors.
  • A Fool for a Client: Wayne Callison represents himself and does quite well the first time, winning an acquittal. The second time around, he's convicted, though that's only because Stark framed him. He also represents himself at his appeal, but loses. It turns out he expected to lose, and it's just a ploy to get into the courthouse, where he can escape.
  • Alliterative Name: Sebastian Stark.
  • Ambiguously Bi: Madeline, who responds to a female lawyer's hitting on her with a nonchalant "Yeah, she's kinda hot."
  • Amoral Attorney: Stark himself. He keeps trying to teach his team to use his methods so they can win their cases. Many of Stark's opponents in court come close to this.
  • …And That Little Girl Was Me:
    Jessica: You know, I remember my first jury trial. I was up against a pretty decent attorney. Kind of pompous and arrogant, but he knew how nervous I was. So he called me while the jury was out.
    Stark: Probably wanted to hit on you.
    Jessica: Actually, I think that's the one time you didn't hit on me. You told me that at the end of the day, you put your best cards on the table, then you put it in the jury's hands and you let it go.
    Jessica: Not the point.
  • Appropriated Appellation: Averted. Despite the title of the show, Stark hates being called "The Shark."
  • As You Know: Justified in the first episode when the team, all clearly friends for a while, are together when Stark enters. Stark rattles out who each one of them is and their history to show how he has a file on every prosecutor in the building and ready to face any one of them at any time.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Stark has elements of this. The mock courtroom in his basement is stocked with items from both famous trials and famous movies about trials.
    Stark: The panels you're walking on covered the floor of the United States Supreme Court for 68 years. ... Oh, (that chair) looked a lot better when Clarence Darrow sat in it during the Scopes Monkey Trial. That lamp was on Ito's desk during OJ. This jury box is from the set of To Kill a Mockingbird.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • The best example would be a porn magnate whom Stark had refused to defend earlier.
    Stark: Tyson Shaw, how do I know that name?
    Madeleine: Internet porn. Guy's a zillionaire, and a major sleaze-bag. Beat raps on extortion, racketeering…
    Stark: Right, he came to me for representation on an embezzlement charge a couple years ago.
    Isaac: You turned him down?
    Stark: Guy made Larry Flynt look like Mary Poppins. Even I have standards.
    • Another example is a rapist who was killed by a victim's father. Stark agrees to a Plea Bargain because he both sympathizes with the killer and expects a jury to do the same if the case is taken to a trial.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Wayne Callison got away with murdering five women and driving a witness into suicide. For a while.
  • Bait-and-Switch: An episode opens with Julie having been arrested for a DUI. It shows Sebastian awakened by a phone call and saying "yeah, I'll be there soon." Cut to Julie in jail as it's expected her dad is waiting for her...and instead it's Isaac as Julie was too scared to call her dad. Stark had been called by an old friend who needs help with a woman found dead at one of his parties.
  • Batman Gambit: Stark runs a doozy to get Wayne Callison, making sure no one else in the prosecutor's office knows about it and there is no evidence to prove it.
  • Bittersweet Ending: In "In the Grasp", the main perpetrators are convicted, but the guy who stood watch for them not only gets off scot free, but comes out looking like the hero.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Julie, who gets brattier as the show goes on (getting arrested for a DUI, cheating on a test and nearly being thrown out of school, hanging out with the wrong crowd and dating a boy with a substance abuse problem), although this is Truth in Television-teenagers don't exactly make the smartest choices. What makes her truly bratty is how she seems to lash out at and blame her father for all her problems.
  • Cassandra Truth: The reason Stark explains his Batman Gambit to Wayne Callison in loving detail.
    Stark: I'm not a big one for loose ends, Wayne. There's not a single scrap of paper, not one e-mail to confirm what I just told you. Hanna Morton's remains have been cremated. None of my lawyers knows a thing. And the people who do aren't saying a word. All that's left... are the ravings of a convicted psychopath.
  • Category Traitor: Some defense attorneys see Stark as this, once he joins the D.A. office.
    Anita Astin: You hopped the fence. Like being a defense attorney is something you need to rehab from.
    Stark: Maybe it is.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Stark's plan to get Wayne Callison hits a snag when his team finds another viable suspect, a troubled man who was in love with the victim. It hinders things, but not completely.
    Stark: The victim's own private stalker? What are the odds?
  • The Coroner: An episode has Jessica's old medical examiner friend pointing them to a suspect with sure evidence. However, when the suspect has an ironclad alibi, another examiner says this entire autopsy was wrong. It turns out the woman has been faking evidence for years on the idea of "they're guilty anyway." At first, Jessica is sympathetic...until her "friend" claims Jessica had been not only in on this but encouraging her to fake the results to win cases.
  • Driven to Suicide: The key witness for the first time Wayne Callison went to trial. He drove her to it so he could be acquitted.
  • Everyone Can See It: When they start sleeping together, Casey and Madeline try to keep it quiet, worried they'll get fired if Stark finds out. During an argument, Stark makes a crack about their "pillow talk" and when they stare, he basically scoffs on the two actually thinking every single person in the office hasn't known about them from the start.
  • False Friend: On Shark, Jessica's old friend Laura Fields, a medical examiner she's worked with for years, gives her word on who killed a reporter. The problem is, the supposedly sure suspect has an airtight alibi. Another M.E. says there's something wrong with this report as it turns out the reporter had been investigating a man in prison who's long claimed innocence in a murder where Fields was the M.E. It turns out Laura killed the reporter herself before she could expose that Fields had faked the evidence in that earlier case. Jessica is hurt by this but still wants to back Laura as making a mistake...until, at the trial, Laura throws Jessica under the bus by claiming that not only was she fully aware of this when prosecuting the man but even encouraged Laura to lie about it so Jessica could get the win. Jessica is rocked by how her "friend" is ready to ruin Jessica's career just to save herself.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: Stark's Batman Gambit against Wayne Callison.
  • Good Lawyers, Good Clients: Whenever Stark finds out that he's prosecuting an innocent person, he stops until the police can find a more likely candidate.
  • Have You Come to Gloat?: Invoked by name by Wayne Callison to Stark. Stark is actually there to explain to Wayne (and the audience) the Batman Gambit he used in the episode.
  • Hello, Attorney!: Pretty much everyone at the DA's office. Except Issac, who is an investigator.
  • Heroic BSoD: Shark has one in the series opener after a wife beater he got off murdered said wife a few days later. The worst part is that the wife had whispered "You've probably saved my life" into Shark's ear just after the trial... It's what turns him into The Atoner.
  • Hollywood Law: Stark was a defense attorney who quit and became a prosecutor after a client he got off on assault charges against his wife murdered her. Problem is, a defense attorney can't just quit while representing a client who's facing charges (as here). It's Rule of Drama, clearly.
  • Horrible Hollywood
  • Humans Are Bastards: "Sex for surgery. And just like that, mankind sinks to a new low."
  • Justice by Other Legal Means: Stark claims to be more concerned with winning cases than with actual justice. He makes an exception for Wayne Callison.
  • Killed Off for Real: Martin in episode 11.
  • The Kindnapper: One of the defendants prosecuted by Sebastian Stark claims to be one. It was a lie he tricked the child into believing.
  • Loophole Abuse: What Stark used as a defense attorney and continues to use as a prosecutor.
  • The Lost Lenore: Isaac's fiance, Olivia.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: A few episodes have Stark and Company investigating homicides before there is a suspect. Stark is there when the cops arrest a suspect, usually to Quip to Black
  • Murder by Mistake: A friend and former co-worker of Stark's is killed in "Partners in Crime." Stark was the actual target.
  • Nothing Personal: Stark says his cases against the state were just business—LAPD officers quite often disagree.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Wayne Callison attempts this with Stark. Stark disagrees.
    Wayne Callison: Sebastian, we're not so different... you and I.
    Stark: Let's just say I learned to channel my obsession in a more positive direction.
  • Off on a Technicality: A member of the staff team influenced the jury and it saved the sympathetic defendant.
    • In a darker case, Wayne Callison got away with killing five women because the key witness' testimony against him had to be disregarded on the grounds that he wasn't able to cross-examine her. The reason he couldn't was the fact she was Driven to Suicide by him. And that was something he got away with on another technicality.
  • Old Cop, Young Cop: In one of Sebastian Stark's cases as a prosecutor, the defendant was a cop charged with killing a criminal's cousin. The cop had a problem with the criminal and accidentally killed the cousin. The cop was the old cop of the trope and the young one was testifying against him. The ex-cop working as a liaison between Stark's office and the LAPD commented on how odd it was that the young cop was testifying against the old one since cops usually take the heat for one another. Then it clicked on Stark that the old cop was Taking the Heat for the young one. The young one had heard stories about the criminal and decided to take justice into his own hands. Stark made a deal where he'd allow the old cop to take the heat if the young one agreed to leave the force forever.
  • Papa Wolf: Wayne Callison threatening Julie proved to be a huge mistake, as it led Stark to frame him for another murder to get him convicted.
  • Plea Bargain: The show has this happen regularly, or at least has attempts to plea bargain, as is Truth in Television-in the US, over 90% of criminal cases are pled out.
  • Rape and Revenge: One episode features a murder case where the victim had raped the killer's daughter. Stark agrees to a plea bargain because he neither hopes to convince the jury to give a harsh punishment nor he wants to.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Casey Woodland was written out due to his actor (Sam Page) getting a role in a movie which flopped magnificently.
  • Reformed Criminal: Implied with Danny Reyes when he pops the lock of a car in two seconds.
    Issac: You didn't learn that in law school.
    Danny: Old habits.
  • Rewatch Bonus: "Wayne's World 2: Revenge of the Shark" becomes a very different episode once we learn the whole case is a Batman Gambit by Stark to get Wayne Callison. Stark's unusual behavior is because he wants his lawyers to unknowingly follow a plan that, if discovered, would get Stark put in prison instead of Callison. Also, Callison's arrogance is more understandable. He beat Stark when he was guilty of five murders; beating Stark when he's actually innocent of this crime should be easy..
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Not often, but sometimes.
  • Scare 'Em Straight: Stark does this after Julie gets arrested for a DUI by bringing her to prison to meet a guy who, at her age, got drunk, ran over two people and is now in jail for manslaughter.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: This trope is reason the special unit is formed by Mayor Delgato.
    Delgato: Truth is, I'm sick of the poor going to jail for jaywalking while millionaires kill each other without missing a massage. We're starting a high profile crime unit in the DA's office to nail rich folk with fancy lawyers like you.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The first season finale, "Wayne's World 2: Revenge of the Shark," has a lot of references to Moby-Dick.
    • "Sebastian Stark lecturing me on ethics. Rod Serling should be popping up any time."
  • Spotting the Thread: A common bit as Stark and his team spot a clue that unravels the case. For example, Stark realizes the medical examiner was actually a killer because she was the first person to arrive at the crime scene when Stark (whose house was closest) took 45 minutes to get there.
  • Start of Darkness: Flashbacks in "Partners in Crime" show this for Stark in 1995. He became the lawyer for an oil man named Normandy, and stood by when Normandy buried his dead lover in an oil field.
  • Team Dad: Stark, although he would be the first to deny it.
  • Team Mom: Jessica.
  • Tempting Fate: Stark has a very bad habit of this. Anytime he (or someone on his team) talks of how good a case looks, you can bet the very next scene has a huge wrinkle entering it.
  • Vigilante Man: The defendant in the episode "Porn Free" says he killed a porn kingpin to benefit society. Stark isn't hearing it.
    Raina: Maybe Gilroy really did kill Shaw to make the world a better place.
    Stark: (A) That's God's job and (B) altruism is not a viable defense to murder.
  • Who Would Be Stupid Enough?: In the pilot episode, Mayor Delgato explains the high profile crime unit to Stark.
    Delgato: That's why I'm bringing somebody from the outside to head the unit.
    Stark: What schmo would take that job? Come on.
    (Delgato smiles and pats Stark on the back.)
  • Unconventional Courtroom Tactics: In the pilot episode, Stark shows he is able to get someone to lose their cool on the witness stand with a "mock questioning" of Raina. She loses her cool.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Between Stark and Jessica. Stark finds her attractive and keeps hitting on her, but Jessica always turns him down. Although as the time goes, they've grown to develop a friendly relationship.