Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Pilot Review: For the People

For the People (ABC)
Premiered March 13 at 10pm

Eight years ago, ABC premiered a new show about young lawyers in way over their heads that I described as being advertised as “Grey’s Anatomy” with law instead of medicine. “The Deep End” had some good comic elements, like the protagonist eagerly announcing that he was a little early only to be told that he was ten days late, and the expected amount of sex and scandal to keep things lively. It was decent, if not great, and lasted a mere six episodes. Now, so many years later, we have the same network attempting another series that specifically spotlights lawyers at the start of their careers without any added twist like one of them being in a second career after her husband was disgraced following a political affair. This series wasted no time in being sappy right from the start with an impassioned speech from the judge played by Vondie Curtis-Hall, most recently seen as reporter Ben on “Daredevil.” Playing the adults, we have two very talented and dependable performers, Ben Shenkman of “Billions,” “Royal Pains,” and much more, and Hope Davis of “In Treatment,” “American Splendor,” “Wayward Pines,” and so many others, along with Anna Deavere Smith in a role that’s supposed to tie everything together. Among the younger clan, the only one who sticks out is Britt Robertson, whose recent starring turn on “Girlboss” was far more worthwhile than this dull of a part here which doesn’t do anything to showcase her strengths as an actress. So much that happens on this show is formulaic and predictable, with over-sensationalized plots like someone being arrested for terrorism when he was the lone actual participant in an FBI sting and another person being cruelly targeted for a relatively innocent mistake. This show might be energizing for its target audience, but there’s little new or original about it.

How will it work as a series? We’ve already seen a couple break up after going up against each other in court, and we know that the two adults are actually friendly despite the different ways in which they perceive the world. That’s sure to only be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to everything that could happen on a show that’s likely to feature high-value cases and lots of complicated webs connecting the people defending and prosecuting them.
How long will it last? Reviews were decent for this show, which is ultimately going to be carried much more on its ratings success given its Shondaland status. Those numbers were also okay if not completely fantastic, and while ABC could probably use a new legal show these days, I’m not so sure that this is it. It could still get renewed, but I wouldn’t be too optimistic.

Pilot grade: C+

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