David E. Kelley, the brain that brought you Ally McBeal, The Practice and Boston Legal brings you… a quirky comedy/drama legal show. In other surprising news – the sun continues to rise and set every day. It’s astonishing.
Kathy Bates is wonderful. She’s won an Oscar and stuff like that, she also habitually pops onto the screen and steals the show, so it’s really no surprise that someone would finally give her the lead in a show and that she’d be utterly wonderful. She’s grumpy and curmudgeonly, but also passionate and inspiring and I love her already. The show around her almost doesn’t matter, she’s an actress who could make reading the phone book hilarious and touching.
Thankfully the writers do show slightly more imagination than that and the show built around her, while not spectacular, is absolutely fine for a star-driven concept. The pilot launches you in so fast, I thought I’d missed the fist section, there’s no time for subtlely in the writing to introduce the characters and explain why the hot shot lawyer is throwing it all away to start a practice in a shoe shop in a poor bit of town. The main case of the week started off a bit ropey, but did eventually present an interesting question – what if the fact that your client is guilty is never a doubt in anyone’s mind, just whether or not they should be given another chance? The second case asked the related question of when is it ‘right’ to commit a crime? Both plots gave excellent opportunities for some impressive and moving speechifying.
Any lead-driven show is going to result in a collection of supporting characters – there to make the lead look good and most of them do a really good, but unspectacular job. Oddly though in the first episodes Nathan Corddry is given almost as much material as Kathy Bates, and I’m not sure whether it’s my residual love for anyone who was in Studio 60, but I thought he was pretty amazing . He’s introduced like someone you’re gonna hate – rich slimey lawyer with a patronising attitude, but then he goes and defends a client and he basically bludgeons the judge and the audience into adoring him. Seriously, I wanted to give a standing ovation.
The only problem I have with Harry’s Law is a little difficult to describe, and possibly all in my own head. I felt a bit uncomfortable watching it. If you look at the show in one way it’s uplifting, people joining a community and helping the people within it. But if you look the other way – it’s implying it takes a bunch of white rich folk going into a poor black neighbourhood like they’re knights in shining armour. Both the defendants this week were black, the “I’m the first person in my family to go to college” and “the police don’t help in this neighbourhood” angles were laid on pretty thick. But for all the comments on the dodginess of the neighbourhood, it just looks like a nice tree-lined street dressed with the occasional homeless person. It can also apparently support a designer shoe shop. The liberalness is laid on so heavily meanwhile that it’s at great risk of toppling over into patronising condescension.
Maybe I’m reading too much into it, maybe I’m thinking too hard about what should be (and mostly was) a lighthearted comedy with a good heart behind it. If the writers avoid becoming patronising, go easy with the cheesy voiceover and don’t go too over the top with the quirkiness, (i.e. it doesn’t turn into Boston Legal) I think I could really love the show.
Clique-Clack – So I was excited to see the pairing of [Kathy Bates] and legendary producer and writer David E. Kelley on NBC’s new offering Harry’s Law. What a great pair up, I thought. And after watching the pilot, I’m really pleased.
TVSquad – After watching the first two episodes, I definitely agree with him. It has all the hallmarks of a Kelley series: quirky characters and setting, cases that touch upon current societal issues, long courtroom speeches. Unfortunately, in this case, that’s not such a good thing.