First television is invaded by “Friends” clones and now we have to deal with the British again. Somehow they have managed to monopolize the gameshow market, and now they want to try their hand at drama. Of course this may be a little harsh, but if we can”t even create our own programs what the hell good are these expensive network execs?
Although most of us long for the lazy days of “Beverly Hills, 90210,” we all understood that it was time for the show to end. No one wants to watch a bunch of 30-year-olds screwing up their lives with drugs, passionate affairs and (gasp!) unemployment. Yet somehow, NBC has decided that we do, except this time everyone has a job the same one to be exact.
“First Years” is a supposedly humorous yet intimate look at the lives of five first-year law graduates as they struggle to get their careers off the ground in San Francisco. Of course struggling is definitely used loosely here. Suffering from the “Friends” effect, somehow these lowly associates are able to live together in a very large house in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. But woe is them they have to do all the grunt work in their law firm, yet miraculously they seem to get all the best cases.
The most notable actor from the cast is Samantha Mathis (“Broken Arrow”) as Anna Weller, a fearless sex kitten who covers up her commitment issues with careerism. Mackenzie Astin (“The Last Days of Disco”) stars as Warren Harrison, the most stable of the group, but that might be because he”s the token gay character, or, as the network likes to put it, “a bit of an outsider.” Sydney Tamiia Poitier (yes Sydney Poitier”s daughter) is the most standout of the cast, mostly because she not only has talent but also because her character, Riley Kessler, is the only one with some actual depth.
The rest of the cast is rounded out by the, for lack of a better association, “typical” Joey and Chandler characters. James Roday plays Riley”s boyfriend, Edgar “Egg” Ross, who acts a lot stupider than he probably is, a la Steve Sanders. His best friend Miles Lawton (Ken Marino) is the smart one (e.g. Brandon Walsh) yet too caught up in a former tryst with Anna to actually provide any substance to the plot.
Ironically, even though the characters are typical and too good looking for their own good, they are the only thing saving the script. Most of us have seen a law drama or two and this definitely isn”t “Law & Order” or even its humorous soul sister “Ally McBeal.” Instead, “First Years” fails to examine the potential of any of these young associates by relegating them to no hype court cases that never actually make it into court. But then again this is only their first year. However, it is highly probable that audiences are tired of interracial twists and homosexual jokes. The only emotion that “First Years” is going to provide is that pure animal attraction with familial tears few and far between.
The only saving grace of the show is that it doesn”t take itself too seriously, which hopefully means it won”t be that disappointed if the TV grim reaper comes a callin”. The cast is mentored by Sam O”Donnell (Eric Schaeffer) who tends to go above and beyond the call of tabloidism. He even pays an associate to constantly berate him. Plus the first years themselves play of all the seriousness that it could be with toilet bowl humor and a gorgeous smile. Unfortunately it seems that nobody taking himself seriously is what the producers of “First Years” were going for, but the TV universe isn”t big enough for another “Friends” wannabe, even if it is on the opposite coast.