New TV Obsession: Fairly Legal

Cropped screenshot of Judy Garland from the tr...

"I don't believe we're in Kansas anymore." Image via Wikipedia

It took a free pilot episode on iTunes to turn me on to a new show that’s really worth watching. Oftentimes, pilot episodes appear lazy and non-cohesive. The character’s attributes aren’t firmly set, the major tropes of the show are sloppily thrown together, and the episode has no discernible correlation to the rest of the season (or the series, for that matter). For this reason, I try not to judge shows on pilot episodes. But every once in a while, a pilot episode will hook me, make me believe that there is still good (scripted) television out there to be watched. Fairly Legal’s pilot episode is one of those pilots.
The USA network has been home to some of my favorite shows, such as Monk. Although I haven’t had the opportunity to get into Psych, Burn Notice, In Plain Sight, or Royal Pains, they are on my list of shows to watch. The thing that sets a USA original apart is the characterization. They have unique characters that can carry the show no matter how screwy the plot gets. If the show also has good plots to plop these characters into, you can’t help but have a hit on your hands (unless you’re Law & Order: Criminal Intent w/ Vincent D’Onfrio–I just don’t understand why it didn’t catch on, or why they split it between the two teams of detectives–not that I dislike Mr. Big and his partner ;-)).
Fairly Legal is a legal drama with a twist. Kate Reed used to be a lawyer but now works as a mediator for her family firm Reed & Reed. It’s an interesting dynamic between working with the law, but not being a respected part of the law (there is a judge in the pilot bent on making Kate’s existence miserable). She is surrounded by lawyers, many of whom she has to work around to bring about what she believes is true justice.
I thought the way that they introduced the characters was really interesting and set a good tone for the show. We are introduced to them as images and sound bites from the Wizard of Oz emanating from Kate’s cell phone. There’s her brother, the Scarecrow, a lovable lawyer who quit the firm to be able to spend more time with his adorable daughter; her ex-husband, the Tin Man, who is also a lawyer (and who she uses alternately as a bed partner and inside connection to the DA’s office), someone she bumps heads with because he’s interested in the law and she’s interested in justice; Leo, the cowardly lion, her assistant who keeps her on track and out of trouble (whenever at all possible); her stepmother, the Wicked Witch of the West, who now runs Reed & Reed, and; the presence (in an urn) of her dearly departed father, the Wizard, who she loved dearly and seemed to want to impress or win over.
If the first episode is indicative of the rest of the season, the firm tends to use Kate to help them close deals when there are disagreements between the parties. Kate is also summoned by the courts to mediate cases that the court either doesn’t want to try or they feel as if can be resolved through mediation. Kate is a great mediator, but is always late, has an awkward sense of humor, and rushes in feelings first.
In this first episode, Kate is called upon to “get everyone back on the same page” when a deal for the firm is threatening to fall apart because of a disagreement between the father and son who run the company they are working with. The father believes the son doesn’t have good instincts about the business, and cites an incident from the night before in which his son is involved in a car accident and swerves off the road when the passenger of the other car points a gun in his face. He was drunk at the time. Kate agrees to help them make the DUI disappear so the deal can go forward. Both the driver and the gun toting passenger will be charged. Easy peasy (ironically, the name of the individuals involved is Peasy).
Of course, there’s a complication. The driver has no priors and has, in fact, been accepted to Yale University. He’s a good kid, and going to jail for five years will ruin his entire life. Kate knows this isn’t fair, but the law is clear: the driver is just as culpable as his passenger. But the law isn’t just in this case. It’s up to Kate to figure out how to save the young man’s future AND the clients her firm desperately needs to hold onto.
This show was fun, smart, and had heart. I loved Kate from her first few lines of dialogue, and everyone else in the cast did a phenomenal job of filling in the world she inhabits. I hope they use the judge again, and that none of the actors have been replaced by the time the show really gets underway. This is one show I’m really looking forward to getting into. Feel free to watch with me each week and tell me what you think!
Oh, bonus points if you can tell me the name of the boat; I missed it 😦
Up next on my DVR (waiting for weeks): The Cape
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