I was a quivering blancmange of excitement about next week's new series, Harry's Law, because it is the latest creation from the god of quirky television, David E. Kelley, whom you might remember from LA Law and Boston Legal.
Was there ever a cooler duo than Denny Crane (William Shatner) and Alan Shore
(James Spader) smoking cigars and drinking whisky at the end of each episode of Boston Legal? So, what is Kelley up to now, might you ask? Well, much the same as before. He has created yet another law firm filled with verbose oddbods. But this time there are more do-gooding sermons and no sex. This is Boston Legal Lite, the PC version. And it's a shame, because he has a monstrous talent in the show's
star, Kathy Bates, who has the ability to be as legendary as Denny Crane if only he'd let her be a bit dirtier.
Harry's Law revolves around Bates as Harriet Korn, a recently fired patent attorney who
forms a law firm in a rundown shoe store in a bad neighbourhood of Cincinnati. There are typical Kelley trademarks: the rat-a-tat dialogue, the soul music soundtrack over urban scenes, the liberal humanitarian preaching in the courtroom and, of course, the surreal Kelley world in which nothing makes much sense.
Don't try to understand how a man trying to commit suicide could jump out of a building
and fall on Harriet but not injure her. Don't try to understand why an abandoned shoe shop in a slum neighbourhood would be selling Prada and Jimmy Choo shoes. Or why a top lawyer, Adam Branch (Nate Corddry), would just quit his job in a big firm to join a patent attorney who knows nothing about criminal law. Patent work is to law what fixing ingrown toenails is to doctoring. But never mind, this is Kelley-land where every black gangsta on criminal charges is secretly an honour student and every protection racket is run by Robin Hoodlums
with hearts of gold.
You have to admire Kelley's unwavering belief in the essential goodness of humanity.
That is, if they are poor and black. Rich white folks don't get quite such compassionate
treatment. In Kelley's world all neo-cons are war criminals and every case is a chance to take a dig at Rush Limbaugh. It's a bit of a bore.
In Boston Legal the creator's bleeding-heart soliloquys on topics such as gun control, drug laws and capital punishment were tolerable because they were juxtaposed with Denny Crane's outrageous bigotry. "I have an erection. That's a good sign. I'm ready to go to trial. Lock and load.'' No erections in Harry's Law so far. I am hoping that in future episodes Bates is going to come up with some blinders like that; apparently, in an upcoming episode she calls Branch an "arrogant little snot''.
That's the spirit, tiger!
You should know by now, Kelley, it is easier to write great lines for demented redneck
bastards than it is for kind, compassionate muesli munchers. So far, Bates' Harry is angry and can pull out a pistol to scare off hoodlums, but she's just too disappointingly motherly. Harry's Law has been renewed for a second season in the US so I hope Harry will be increasingly Denny Craned or Allan Shored as the show unfolds. Not quivering with expectation, though.
Harry's Law debuts on TV One, Wednesday at 9.30pm.