You might look at CBS' new drama Doubt and think it's just like everything else on TV, but you'd actually be missing out on one of this season's outliers. Unlike many of its companions debuting this winter, Doubt is not based on a true story, nor is it based on a movie from the last 15 years or a reboot of an old series. The show is based around a fictional legal team led by Sadie Ellis, an experienced defense attorney who begins falling for one of her clients. Certainly, Doubt is relying on television's long history of having legal dramas about a different case every week, and legal dramas' long history of having its lead character make an exception to their usual professionalism in order to fall in love with someone they shouldn't. In many cases, this is their coworkers; in Doubt, it's a client.
So yes, Doubt is honoring a lot of TV traditions, including casting Katherine Heigl as a tough professional who's not always likable. But it isn't an adaptation, and that's kind of refreshing. The only way you'll know exactly what will happen between Sadie and Brian, if they'll get caught, or if they'll wind up together, is to watch the show. Honestly, there's not much here that even could be recognized if it was based on a true story. These characters are classic TV tropes created to generate juicy drama.
However, one way the series could mix real life into its fiction is the case that Sadie's team handles. When asked by Parade if she thinks it's important have "ripped from the headlines" stories, Heigl said:
"Absolutely. I think it makes it more compelling. For somebody like me, I don’t actually watch the news much. I find it really despairing actually, so I try not to go there to keep a positive attitude. But when you take stuff from what’s going on in the world and put it into fiction, it’s always mind blowing ... I think it’s a great way of hooking in an audience and not only engaging them in what is really going on in the world around us but doing it in a way that breaks it down and makes it more human."
Another way that Doubt is connected to real events is through Laverne Cox's history-making lead role. She's the first trans actress playing the first trans leading character on network TV. Her character, Cameron, is passionate about using the law to end discrimination, and real trans lawyers are also making history. According to The American Lawyer, in early 2017 Blake Liggio became one of the first trans partners at a major law firm. "I approached the process of transition by just saying I really didn’t want it to completely define me and who I wanted to be," Liggio told The American Lawyer. "I wanted to be a business lawyer."
So no, Doubt wasn't based on a book, series, film, or even a true story — but it echoes the real world in some ways, and in others, it's eschewed reality to make the drama more exciting and unpredictable.