Photo : USA Network
Sarah Shahi Shines In USA’s FAIRLY LEGAL
By : TAMARA BROOKS
With character-driven procedural being all the rage, USA is betting FAIRLY LEGAL can stand out in the crowd and make you take notice. After getting a preview of the series, I think they’re on to something.
The series follows the exploits of Kate Reed (Sarah Shahi – LIFE, THE L WORD), a lawyer-turned-mediator who’s more concerned with doing what’s right and just than following the exact letter of the law. She works at her deceased father’s law firm for her icy, similarly aged stepmother Lauren (Virginia Williams – HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER) and constantly sees her District Attorney ex-husband Justin Patrick (Michael Trucco – CASTLE, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA) both professionally and personally (and sometimes naked). Also added in the mix is her brother Spencer (Ethan Embry – BROTHERHOOD, EAGLE EYE, THAT THING YOU DO), an ex-lawyer who quit the family firm to be a stay-at-home dad.
LEGAL doesn’t reinvent the wheel but it’s everything you want it be. It’s interesting, well-written, dramatic, funny, and touching. In the two episodes I watched, I was invested in what was going on. It fits into USA’s grander programming scheme like a glove – it’s got a strong ensemble cast, an interesting and fairly unique concept that’s well-executed, and a great group of writers behind the scenes.
Photo : USA Network
From the pilot you can tell Kate is smart, strong, honest at times to a fault, occasionally emotional and tenacious but the best little character quirk comes in the form of her cell phone. She uses WIZARD OF OZ characters and themes for the people closest to her. It’s something so simple but says a lot about her and her network. Shahi, and therefore Kate, radiates warmth, which is very important because the character could easily be unlikable in the wrong hands.
The cast as a whole has great chemistry and every actor owns their character. Trucco is great as Justin, who is equally frustrated by and admires Kate as he navigates the treacherous political waters of his job. He’s also obviously still in love with her (and vice versa) but you can see why it didn’t exactly work out. Williams plays Lauren’s icy demeanor masterfully as you can see the brief cracks in it at times and an unexpected, underlying vulnerability. Embry is absolutely
squeezable as Spencer – seriously, I just want to hug him. I didn’t see too much of him in the episodes I watched but he served as a sounding board for both Kate and Lauren so you can tell he’s someone dependable and insightful and both ladies respect him.
Now let’s talk about my surprise favorite in the ensemble – Baron Vaughn (LAW & ORDER, BLACK DYNAMITE) as Kate’s assistant Leonardo “Leo” Prince. I love him from his afro to his sweater vest to his nerdy tendencies. He keeps Kate on schedule (as best he can), helps her get sensitive information, provides moral support, and plays Dungeons & Dragons. And it’s very apparent that they care about each other, are friends, but it’s not like they go hang out. Vaughn and the writers play Leo as a guy who just happens to be a giant nerd and don’t succumb to obvious, played-out stereotypes (you know what I’m talking about). He’s just incredibly likable.
In a nutshell, LEGAL is only as charming and compelling as the cast and USA had once again assembled a group of all-stars. I’m pretty sure they’ve got another hit on their hands.
Fairly Legal Series Premiere : Thursday, January 20th : 10/9c on USA Network