USA premiered Fairly Legal last Thursday, providing perspective on a little-explored aspect of the legal profession: alternate dispute resolution. Most legal-themed shows focus on the trial aspect of practicing law because people are enamored with the courtroom antics of lawyers, the shady tricks attorneys allegedly pull, and the drama of innocence or guilt. But in fact, most cases do not even reach trial, which does not make for good television. That's why Fairly Legal is taking such a huge risk; its main character is not a trial lawyer, but rather a mediator. That means a lot of the show's plot lines play out in a conference room, not in a court room. I have to say though, that Fairly Legal may stand a chance. Writers have cleverly positioned our hero, Kate Reed, in her family's law firm, which means those traditional courtroom cases will still see the light of day. Toss in a sprinkle of complicated family relations, and you might have yourself a winner.
It also helps that Fairly Legal airs on a cable network. Cable networks like USA, TNT, and FX are more patient with their original programming than say, ABC or NBC, which allows writers 1) more freedom with violent or sexual content and 2) more time to hit their creative stride. I'll just have to tune in next week to see what kind of zany plot-o-the-week these writer's come up with, and see if this show is worth watching (so far, the writers have kept the show light and airy).
At the very least, Fairly Legal did a smart thing in casting Sarah Shahi. She's likeable as Kate Reed, smart and compassionate, with a fiery attitude. And Virginia Williams is well-cast as Reed's foil, Kate's recently widowed, ice queen of a stepmother, who also happens to be Kate's boss. Pulling in the sci-fi fanboys is Michael Trucco, formerly of Battlestar Galactica, who plays Kate's ex-husband DA (Somehow Trucco ends up playing characters that constantly chase after the women they love, e.g., Reed and Starbuck). So if this show fails, it likely won't be due to its cast.
Fairly Legal airs on USA on Thursdays at 10/9c.