Sunday, January 24, 2010

TV REVIEW: "The Deep End" - Pilot

I'm more of a medical-show ("Grey's Anatomy," "Mercy," "Scrubs," and "Trauma") watcher than a law-show ("Drop Dead Diva") watcher, but I figured since there were some young, attractive actors in this and Billy Zane (The Phantom and "Samantha, Who?") was playing a bad boy, I'd give it a shot. Here it is in a fat nutshell:

Four recent law school graduates have been hand-picked by a prestigious law firm's big kahuna, Cliff Huddle (Zane), to be the new junior associates. Their mentor/babysitter Rowdy (Norbert Leo Butz from Dan in Real Life) makes sure they stay on-point and don't piss off any huge clients. Of course, they all have their flaws which will interfere with their ability to impress. Dylan (Matt Long from "Jack and Bobby" and Sydney White) came to the firm after Rowdy promised that he would be nurtured and handheld until he's the best damn lawyer he can be. Not gonna happen. Liam (newcomer Ben Lawson), the Australian playboy, has a little trouble keeping his junk in his pants, feeling compelled to sleep with not only fellow associates, but secretaries and clients. Beth (Leah Pipes from "Life is Wild" and Sorority Row) is eager to impress her dad, after rejecting his offer to join his firm and essentially coast on his name. And Addy (Tina Majorino from "Veronica Mars") is a pixie-voiced and pint-sized pushover who needs to develop a backbone if she's going to both get assigned cases and win them.

Cliff's boss Hart Sterling (Clancy Brown from The Informant and The Guardian) took a leave of absence when his wife was ill, and after a period of grieving, returned to revamp the money-grubbing empire that Cliff built into a pro-bono bleeding heart. Since Cliff refused to step down, Hart decided to undermine him by hiring a junior associate of his own. Malcolm (Mehcad Brooks from "True Blood" and "Desperate Housewives") didn't get much screen time, but from commercials and his run-in with the pixie, I can tell that he'll become chummy with Liam and maybe flirty with Addy. In other romantic hookup predictions, Beth, who beds Liam when she's down, will probably develop sincere feelings for him, which will be interesting considering his compulsion. Meanwhile, Dylan ingeniously decided that the best breakup medicine for Katie (Rachelle Lefevre from Twilight), the legal aide who helped him win his first case, was a roll in the hay with him. Unfortunately, Katie's ex, who refuses to let her go, is actually their boss Cliff, who is married to Susan (Nicole Ari Parker from "Soul Food"), the firm's other big kahuna. He can officially kiss any offers of mentoring goodbye.

Many blogs and publications have been describing this series as "Grey's Anatomy" with lawyers, which is an insult to Shonda Rhimes. For the sake of civility, I will provide somewhat constructive criticism. Here are a few suggestions to make it better:

1) Give the Aussie more airtime. He's funny, his background is more interesting, and he's terribly flawed. Why watch a show about some kid who wants to make a difference? Don't we have enough of those already? Lawyers are often portrayed as these heroic figures who buck the system and fight for the little guy. How many of your friends go to law school so they can one day "buck the system"? At least Liam seems like a more believable character. Meanwhile, Dylan is like a starry-eyed freshman, who just realized college isn't going to be a non-stop adventure. I mean, maybe if he had a backstory to support his hero-complex, it would be easier to jump on board with. But these days TV is littered with protagonists who are either reluctantly helpful (Chuck on "Chuck"), obligated to be helpful (Michael on "Burn Notice" and Neal from "White Collar"), or seemingly just out for an adrenaline rush (Christopher from "Human Target"). Hell, even Eli Stone only became a pro-bono lawyer after a fatal prognosis.

2) Give the blonde a personality. Rigid and robotic are the only acceptable words to describe the cardboard persona that Beth has. The only time she shines is when she's around Liam, and even though she might have more class than he does, she's not even worthy of a one-night stand let alone a potential relationship.

3) Every time the adults are talking, I find myself daydreaming. How can you possibly make Billy Zane boring? How? And on what planet would anyone believe that he'd marry someone as tight-ass and morally-driven as Susan? Sleep with an easily manipulated legal aide? Yes. Marry a smart, driven woman? What? I mean, granted she's obviously easy to manipulate too, but why even bother? For appearances? His right-hand man Rowdy is the most interesting, mainly because of his concern for the newbies and his burgeoning mid-life crisis, made obvious by the car he drives, the girls he chases, and the colloquialisms he thinks are cool. And as for Hart, I could so-so-so care less about his philanthropic agenda to be a pro-bono-ing machine.

4) Stop talking to us like we're stupid. How many times can you emphasize that "the deep end" is where the law firm metaphorically throws you as a test? We get it! High school students aren't watching this, and even if they were, they take Calculus. They're not that dumb. There's no need to not only explain it, but then push someone LITERALLY into the deep end. Seriously?

5) Get better lighting. Why does everyone look gray? I know what you're thinking. Adjust your TV set. My TV's fine. It's a flat screen and every other TV show has vibrant colors, except for maybe "Fringe," which is supposed to be creepy and dreary. And while it's true that this law series doesn't take place in Miami or the Bahamas, even rainy Seattle-based "Grey's Anatomy" has more shades of the rainbow.
Will I watch next week?
Well, both "Bones" and "Vampire Diaries" are far more interesting and funny. But I guess it wouldn't hurt to TiVo, since most of next week's TV shows will be running re-runs and I don't have any intention of watching the Super Bowl. *sigh* Maybe if it gets better, there'll be a legitimate reason for why "Flashforward" is on break.

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