Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pilot Review: Fairly Legal

Fairly Legal (USA)
Premiered January 20 at 10pm

Let me first say that I’m absolutely thrilled to have Sarah Shahi back on television. The Iranian-Spanish actress was one of the best parts of the second season of Showtime’s “The L Word,” and I was extremely saddened to see her leave the show to go to NBC’s “Life,” where she had little to nothing to do while lead actor Damian Lewis stole the show. That series only survived two seasons, and now she’s found a home on USA as just the latest character to be welcomed into the network fold. Shahi’s Kate Reed is a fun protagonist, and what’s especially interesting when it comes to this show compared to other USA fare is that the first episode isn’t really an origin story. By the start of the pilot, Kate has already become a mediator, and the show simply picks up with her and gets rolling. It’s a good strategy, though I’m not entirely in love with the show as it stands at the moment. The ringtones and nicknames from “The Wizard of Oz” are slightly irritating, and I’m not sure any of the other characters besides Sarah are terribly appealing. It’s fun to see Michael Trucco try to stray away from sci-fi like “Battlestar Galactica” since he does have decent comic timing. The emphasis on Kate’s nerdy assistant Leonardo is a bit too much as well, and I remember a time (“Jericho”) when Gerald McRaney played more than just an angry character who insists on grumbling all of his lines, as he did in this pilot and on NBC’s recently-cancelled “Undercovers.” The cases seem rather cookie-cutter, in that they’re so over the top that their resolutions are both highly unlikely and highly unpredictable. Still, there is some appeal, mostly coming from the seemingly fearless Kate, and I’m interested to see where USA takes its newest show.

How will it work as a series? Besides the fact that there isn’t much of a supporting cast yet and it seems like Kate might have to juggle her entire case load solo, there’s infinite potential for the reworking of civil court cases into meditation scenarios. Kate also has plenty of soul-searching to do, and her tricky relationship with her ex-husband should prove fun as well.
How long will it last? You have to go back to Jeffrey Donovan’s previous show (before “Burn Notice”) to find a USA series that didn’t last a good long while. Even “The 4400” made it four seasons before being cancelled. That said, “Fairly Legal,” USA’s first show to debut in January, didn’t perform exceptionally in the ratings, but I still think it has a solid shot at officially joining the brand and being renewed fairly soon for a second season.

Pilot grade: B-

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