Ah, lawyer shows. It appears that, regardless of the countless number of courtroom dramas strewn across the screens of the TV world, our appetite for characters dueling it out in trial will never wane; or at least, producers will never tire of shoving this tried formula down our throats.
Mondays at 10 p.m.
One of the latest in the genre stars none other than the great Kathy Bates (“Titanic”) as Harriet “Harry” Korn in NBC’s midseason replacement “Harry’s Law.” Created by David E. Kelley (“Ally McBeal,” “Boston Legal”), a seasoned veteran when it comes to legal dramas, the show denotes the strange acts of fate that befall a recently fired patent lawyer attempting to turn her life around.
Harry is unfulfilled with her so-called “dull” life as a patent lawyer, despite being one of the best in the country. Evidently, her boss senses this sentiment and performs the gracious act of firing her. This is where things get weird — like, absurd-plot-points-weird. Within moments of her firing, two near-death experiences land Harry in the hospital (she miraculously has no injuries or broken bones), where she begins to rethink her life. A few repetitive voiceovers later, she has set up shop as a lawyer in a neighborhood slum of Cincinnati with her assistant Jenna (Brittany Snow, “Hairspray”) running a high-end shoe store from the same location. In short, she becomes a “shoe store lawyer.”
Harry subsequently decides to lend her legal services to the poverty-stricken individuals who comprise her new area of residence. With her plucky assistant at her side and a newfound partner in Adam Branch (Nathan Corddry, “United States of Tara”), she’s ready to fight the good fight and give a voice to criminals who, we learn, are really just good people who’ve been neglected by society.
If the description sounds confusing, that’s because it is. It seems that in the desperation to create a somewhat-original legal series, a variety of gimmicks were thrown into a blender. What came out was a disjointed pilot that’s more likely to leave viewers gagging than feeling any sort of emotion toward the characters.
For starters, there are the endless speeches — monologue upon monologue about life, morals and fate is strewn about the episode, with almost the same frequently as Jenna’s out-of-place shoe references. Tirades about the state of poverty and race in this country are unoriginal and take away from any kind of plot that could possibly hope to develop. Harry represents her clients in court not, it seems, with any prior legal knowledge, but with genuine emotion and heart. This would be fine for an audience that has no idea what a courtroom is. One only needs to watch an episode of “Law and Order” to pick up at least a few sentences of legal jargon, while “Harry’s Law” has virtually none.
And sadly, Bates herself can’t save this sinking ship. While her reputation on stage and in film leaves no question about her casting in the lead role, she walks through the episode in a stiff and stilted manner. Yes, she’s supposed to be playing a curmudgeon, but this doesn’t excuse a lazy performance, especially from an Oscar winner.
The one saving grace comes in the form of Corddry’s Branch. After accidentally hitting Harry with his car, (again, the no-injuries phenomenon goes unexplained) he, too, decides to turn his life around — abandoning his job as an up-and-coming attorney at a high-powered firm and joining Harry in defending the downtrodden of Cincinnati’s streets.
Corddry easily steals every one of his scenes with his energy, motor-mouth delivery and sharp comic wit. Despite the fact that he too is forced to give sappy, unrealistic speeches, he injects the episode with a level of enthusiasm and candor that’s otherwise frighteningly absent.
The pilot opens with Harry saying, “They say the moral of the story comes at the end. But ask me, sometimes it comes at the top, in the middle and you just don’t get it until the end.” Unfortunately, all that we get at the end of the “Harry’s Law” pilot is an unintelligent, unoriginal legal drama that haphazardly simplifies and steals from its numerous predecessors of court dramas.