Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Problem of Fairly Legal

As you know, I'm a big fan of USA Network's original shows, but Fairly Legal has frustrated me and still, a few episodes into the second season, I haven't quite managed to buy into it. A few days ago I had a conversation along these lines with a critic friend:
Me: I'm still watching Fairly Legal, but it definitely has some issues.
Her: No, it's just bad.
Me: But . . . Michael Trucco!
Her: It's just really bad.
me: But . . . Michael Trucco shirtless.
Seriously, though, I wouldn't watch a show I hated just for shirtless hot guys. I keep watching Fairly Legal because I'm stubbornly convinced that beneath the obnoxious, studied quirkiness, the show is actually talking about some interesting ideas.

How do you rebuild when your father dies and your marriage ends, but you still have to see your father's widow and your ex-husband every day? When everyone you encounter, personally or professionally, knows all about it and won't stop talking about it? When your entire identity is based on your ability to solve everyone's problems, but you have no idea what to do about your own?

What happens when two women take over the business started by a beloved patriarch and no one wants to take them seriously? When the supposed trophy wife becomes the highly capable CEO, but the entire client base refuses to see it because it would make them question their worldview? When your wicked stepmother becomes your business partner and you have to acknowledge that she's actually a person?

Or when your boss makes you so righteously angry that you declare you're running for his job, but then have to keep working under him during the campaign? And when your ex-wife is right there, all the time, asking for favors and doing things that reflect on you and your campaign even though she shouldn't be involved? And when you know perfectly well that you're still in love with each other, but also that there were reasons why it didn't work the first time?

And none of that even gets into the supposed fundamental question of the show: Is the law ever fair? Does it matter? Is it more important to expose the truth or to find solutions that satisfy everyone? Is there some universal moral standard, and does that supersede what anyone - or everyone - involved in an issue actually wants? If everyone's happy, have you won, regardless of the actual outcome?

Fairly Legal could be examining these questions while keeping the atmosphere light enough for the network, the way slick, pretty hijinks are mixed with questions of honor and loyalty on Burn Notice or shades-of-gray morality on White Collar. But that's not the show that's actually on the air, and the question, I suppose, is whether it wants to be that show. If it could stop trying to make Sarah Shahi into Zooey Deschanel and stop over-writing everyone's lines long enough to let us hear what's actually being said, it would be off to a good start.

1 comment:

  1. Very insightful. Some things I'd never thought about that you brought up. I like the show, in a lukewarm fashion. Not all that thrilled with the changes from last season. I find the new guy just annoying. I like the Leo character and there seems to be less emphasis on him now. I rather enjoyed the quirk of her being late all the time and that seems to be gone now. I am enjoying her and Justin exploring the boundaries of their new relationship and just what it means. And I also like getting to see Lauren as more of a human being.