Photo Credit : NBC
After top tier actresses Glenn Close, Holly Hunter, Laura Linney, and Kyra Sedgewick, found richer characters and accolades for their work there, Kathy Bates must have thought TV was the promised land for great actresses who have suffered from a continued diminishing of film roles.
By : SHAWNA BENSON
After top tier actresses Glenn Close, Holly Hunter, Laura Linney, and Kyra Sedgewick, found richer characters and accolades for their work there, Kathy Bates must have thought TV was the promised land for great actresses who have suffered from a continued diminishing of film roles. Bates has already dipped her toe in the TV ocean, with appearances on “The Office” and “Six Feet Under”, but this is her first time as the titular lead of a show. As Harriet “Harry” Korn, Bates attempts to become another in a line of cantankerous but loveable characters which populate so much of the television landscape. Unfortunately, “Harry’s Law” is not the right show for her.
Photo Credit : NBC
Created by David E. Kelley, who has brought many quirky “dramadies” to life, “Harry’s Law” feels like a show out of time. It wants to be a new “Ally McBeal” or “Boston Legal” but falls far short. First, the premise crosses the border of sublime into ridiculous; Harry Korn, a successful patent lawyer decides her life is too boring and gets herself fired from her job. Then, in a most preposterous turn of events she is flattened by a man jumping off a building and is hit by a car in the same day, in nearly the same spot. I wouldn’t really have an issue with the hyper-reality, given that Kelley has been successful with the formula before, but it doesn’t feel fresh or fun – just silly and contrived. She then decides to lease a building in the neighborhood of her unfortunate double accident to establish her own firm – we don’t know why. She’s bored with patent law, but we’re given no reason why she suddenly wants to set up her own law firm, nor are we told why she wants to try her hand at practicing criminal law.
To add to the strangeness of her location, the former tenant, a shoe store, has left all its merchandise behind. Lucky for Harry, her loyal assistant Jenna (played by Brittany Snow) is some kind of shoe savant, who encourages Harry to not only sell her legal services from the office, but also the shoes. I wish I were kidding about this particular turn of plot. While I’m certain that Kelley intended for the ‘law office in unlikely location’ to be an amusing twist of the story, to me it felt like a retread of the decade old NBC law show “Ed”, where the title character set up his practice in a bowling alley.
Kelley also recycles a lot of the same themes from his previous legal shows in regard to Harry’s clients. She first takes on the case of Malcom (Aml Ameen), a likeable kid with a drug problem – who, by the way may be the cleanest, nicest drug addict we’ve ever seen. Malcom was the unfortunate soul who jumped off a building and happened to land on Harriet as she walked down the street. Facing his third strike drug charge and a future of jail time, Malcom pleads with Harry to represent him, even though she has absolutely no criminal defense experience. Harry takes the case and argues to a jury that Malcom is a good kid who doesn’t deserve jail, but rather rehab, and a chance to make it in college.
The underdog story attempts to tug at heartstrings, but the characters are like marionettes in a pantomime – we can see the actors attempting to bring humor and real emotion to their roles, but we can’t help but notice all the string pulling. Paul McCrane, who had so much depth as a primary antagonist on “ER” here seems like he’s sleepwalking through the part. Oh he has his own verbal tic of repeating himself, which is more annoying than amusing. In the end, you sense how Malcom’s case will turn out – after all, Ameen is one of the members of the ensemble, and it would be pretty difficult for him to interact with the rest of the office in prison.
Nathan Corddry rounds out the cast as Adam Branch, the young upstart lawyer who accidently hits Harry with his car, only to discover that he has inadvertently run into his legal idol. He jumps at the chance to learn from the best, and leaves behind the high-powered law firm where he works to learn all he can from Harry in her brand new practice…and shoe store.
If all of this sounds like a wacky fun time, you are indeed the audience for this show. Bates is wonderful at times, but not enough to erase the sense of her sleepwalking through the part. Corddry, who did great work on Aaron Sorkin’s “Studio 60” is incredibly likable and takes to Kelley’s dialog like a dog to a bone. There’s just not enough here in the premise and the characters to keep you coming back for more.
The series premiere of Harry’s Law airs Monday, January 17 at 10 pm ET on NBC.