Monday, January 25, 2010

Pilot Review: The Deep End

The Deep End (ABC)
Premiered January 21 at 8pm

Consider this the most pleasant surprise of the year so far. I had expected to outright dislike this show, which had been advertised as “Grey’s Anatomy” with lawyers instead of doctors. While it does certainly have its share of soapy plotlines, it has a strong cast and most importantly, the potential to improve considerably in the future as the relationship are drawn out and expanded upon in the coming episodes. As the technical lead of what’s really an ensemble show (no surname in the title to identify an actual main protagonist), Matt Long does a terrific job of being both likeable, fresh-faced, and stoically moral in his first few days of being a lawyer. Long was great on The WB’s one-season wonder “Jack & Bobby” five years ago, and it’s no surprise that he’s capable of handling this part. The other truly fantastic performer in this cast is Tina Marjorino, whose standout turns in the otherwise awful films “Waterworld” and “Napoleon Dynamite” indicated that she was bound for greatness. Here she’s found a role that really does suit her, and it will be a delight to see more of her as the show continues. The rest of the young lawyers are better both performance-wise and character-wise than would be expected, and there seems to be quite a bit of hidden depth underneath all of their outwards shallowness. Mehcad Brooks, who has traded eating human hearts on "True Blood" for a law career, only appeared briefly at the end of the episode, but he should provide a good anchoring presence on the show as well. Billy Zane makes what could be a cartoonish villain great by chewing the scenery just the right amount, and he has an awesome nemesis in the form of Clancy Brown, who is intimidating and awe-inspiring with just one demeaning look. None of the cases from this first episode stand out as superb, but I have faith that things will turn around and this show will become more compelling at time goes on. It’s already infinitely better than I ever thought it would be.

How will it work as a series? Law shows rise or fall on an episodic basis depending on what the case of the week is. This show has an exciting added component of being primarily an ensemble show, and therefore many cases should result in at least one or two good ones at a time. This format has worked well for series like “The Practice” and “L.A. Law” in the past. Even if it’s not fresh, there’s still plenty of material to be milked.
How long will it last? It appears that I’m the only one who actually liked this show, and ratings were disappointing in its first airing. I wouldn’t give up on it just yet, though, since I think ABC will probably still keep it around for a while to see how it does. From the looks of things, however, I’m not sure this series will make it past the summer, but I certainly wouldn’t mind if I did, at this point at least.

Pilot grade: B