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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"Harry's Law" Review: Will People Stick Around to See It Get Better?

I consider myself a fan of producer David E. Kelley. But here’s the thing I’ve learned about his shows. When they’re good, they’re very, very good. But when they’re bad, they’re horrid.

His latest dramedy, “Harry’s Law,” is not horrid. But it’s not very, very good either. And for NBC, who is banking on the show to help turn around its season, that is very, very bad…

“Law” stars Academy Award winner Kathy Bates as Harriet “Harry” Korn. Harry is one of the top patent lawyers in Cincinnati until she finds herself bored with her job, which gets her fired. So, she decides to open her own practice in a rough part of the city. But two life changing events introduce her to two different people that convince her to become a different kind of lawyer. One is her first client, Malcolm (Aml Ameen). The other is Adam (Nate Corddry), her first associate.

Because this is Kelley, there has to be a quirk somewhere. The quirk here is that Harry’s practice is in an old designer shoe store. And her perky assistant Jenna (Brittany Snow) insists on continuing the shoe business. So it becomes Harriet’s Law and Fine Shoes.

All of the elements of a Kelley show are in the pilot—the hot button social issue case, the political speeches during defense arguments and the slightly offbeat characters. But the show never really comes together. In fact, the pilot was so rough, I was shocked when I rewound the tape to the opening credits and saw that Kelley wrote the script himself. It was just nowhere near his caliber of work.

You’d think that Bates and Kelley would make a good team, but Bates appears to be sleepwalking through the pilot—as bored as her character in the show’s opening minutes.

Thankfully, the hour is somewhat rescued by the always solid Paul McCrane (best known as Dr. Romano on “ER”) as the prosecutor. Kelley gives him a quirk that could come off as annoying in another actor’s hands, but McCrane plays it beautifully.

It’s Corddry who holds down the show until Bates finally wakes up a little in episode two. In fact, everything gels a lot better in the second hour as we see some glimmers of Kelley brilliance. Especially with guest star Christopher McDonald as Adam’s opposing counsel.

The problem for the show and NBC is whether or not viewers will give the show a second chance after the first uneven hour. I really hope they do because I’ve got to believe it will get better.

And how can I not root for a show in Cincinnati?

“Harry’s Law” premieres Monday, January 17th at 10 p.m. on NBC…

Photo Credit: Matthias Clamer/NBC