This is one of the hot tipped shows with all the right pedigrees and all the right plot points, even the name hits all the right words. And you know what, it’s actually good!
The basic premise – do-good lawyer Nick George follows in his father’s footsteps to become lawyer to the Darling family, headed up by a charming no-nonsense patriarch and made up of the most dysfunctional group of siblings ever seen. It’s nothing terribly creative to be honest, the characters are all pretty stereotypical in the pilot but it’s saved from cliché by the fact that many of the characters are aware of their own ridiculousness and that of those around them. It makes life easy in the pilot – you almost immediately know who everyone in the large cast is as soon as you see them, but they’re not so painfully pigeon-holed that they can’t be interesting characters later on.
The two lead characters are given a little more time and complexity. I loved Peter Krause in Sports Night, loved him in Six Feet Under and I love him here. He instantly brings depth and reality as a character who is reconnecting with a world he’s not sure he wants anything to do with. As soon as he appears you just Get Him. Donald Sutherland’s character meanwhile is a lot more slippery and he plays him perfectly. The two of them are brilliant together and the scene where Nick is offered the job really made me pause, it’s a scene that actually makes you exclaim out loud “damn, that was good!”.
The plot of the pilot is a little clumsy in places as there’s so much squashed in to such a short period. Beyond introducing 10 main characters and their relationships and getting Nick into the job they also need to introduce the (seemingly required these days) long term arc storyline involving the mystery of whether Nick’s father murdered. There’s a lot there and it’s complicated with a slightly disjointed time line but it mostly works, you get it all and put it all together. The only really clumsy element I felt was the voice-over at the end which hammed it up a little too much.
I love this show. The talent (including Bryan Singer as a producer, a Baldwin and a Fanning on the cast) and the money that have been put into this show shine through and scream quality. It’s a very well crafted balance of surprises and clichés and I’m intrigued to see both the day to day misadventures of the Darling family play out and the arc of the mystery will develop. More importantly than all that though, I really enjoyed watching this show. It’s extremely funny, everyone at all levels is aware of how ridiculous the situations are – the writers provide opportunities for the audience to laugh at the characters, but also chances to laugh with the characters as they joke with one another. It’s natural and it just feels right.
I don’t think there’s much chance of this series not seeing out the year. It hits all the buzz words for network execs and it’s actually good, a combination that probably can’t lose. So long as the rest of the series does things as well as the pilot does, I think I’ll be watching it all year.