On Sunday nights, I like to watch Episodes and Shameless. And for Showtime’s TV newbies, I think they’re consistently pretty good so far. So last night I decided to watch something else that was hot off the presses. Or the studio lot.
The USA network, while not as big or “Hey Look At Me” as some of its cable or premium cable siblings, does have a unique formula with original series – and it appears they’re sticking to it. If you’ve seen Burn Notice or Royal Pains or White Collar, you know that it’s working rather well.
I was curious about their latest offering: Fairly Legal. Here in Los Angeles they deluged us with ads (but then again, they pretty much do that for every new TV show, every new kind of jeans, new perfume, new tequila and anything else that can be stretched across a hundred-foot billboard ). This one stars Sarah Shahi (who you may recall from the Showtime series The L Word). I tuned in and watched the pilot – which is an hour-and-a-half and then the following episode. Turns out, after two-and-a-half hours I can honestly say it’s not bad at all. Oh sure, there’s the need to get a ton of information across right out of the gate, which makes for some pretty cumbersome dialogue in the beginning (“Dad’s only been dead a week,” “I wonder what we’ll do with his law firm now that he’s gone,” “You’re my brother and you’re a lawyer!” “Why does my hateful stepmother also work at the law firm where I do?” “You were a great lawyer – now you’ve decided to become a mediator?”) The whole thing’s set in San Francisco, where apparently hailing a cab and riding on a cable car is an absolute snap regardless of the time of day. Plus, in their high-powered law offices (denoted by lots of marble) the shows’ two leading ladies wear a) outfits and b) shoes that should – according to the laws of physics – prohibit both of them from either a) bending over or b) running. Alas, despite these obstacles Shahi couldn’t be more adorable and we root for her the entire time. Even the rapport with her will-they or won’t-they ex-husband (who um, just happens to be a city DA) is fun to watch. Nor does anyone wonder how the show’s elfin lead can stop an armed robbery with just a few thought-provoking questions – she just does. My fave is Shahi’s ice-queen stepmonster who deposes people in black satin evening dresses without batting an eye. The show is lots and lots of fun and I predict it will become even more popular.
What USA has done, it seems to me, is corner the basic-cable market with really wily, canny, attractive people who maybe bend the law a little to do what’s fundamentally right. There’s a lot of winking and nudging as they get what they want (have you seen Matt Bomer??); they frequently display a disregard for the “system” but manage to work within it. The fact that most of them are unusually easy on the eyes also serves as a nice foil when it comes to em, completing their various missions. I think it’s safe to say that with Fairly Legal, USA has another fairly substantial success on their hands.
1) Ally McBeal
2) Judging Amy
4) The Good Wife