Everybody may indeed still love Raymond each Monday night on CBS, but much of the remainder of that lineup underscores the point that Ray is the last lovable guy left on the planet. The new comedy “Ladies Man” and the second-year entry “The King of Queens” showcase their leading men as insensitive oafs, and “Family Law” makes it clear — with “First Wives Club” fervor — that the only good man is an emasculated one. “Monday Night Football” haters of the world unite!
Of course, plenty of compelling reasons are offered for the audience — and even for self-hating guys — to embrace this male-bashing point of view. Before the “Family Law” pilot is 10 minutes old, family attorney Lynn Holt (Kathleen Quinlan) will have been ditched by her husband, a lawyer in the law firm the two share. He then immediately turns around and steals most of their joint clients while opening a competing practice mere yards from her office — taking along the majority of the firm’s attorneys in the process.
Not a nice guy, this ex. But once Lynn gets over her initial devastation, she and the one loyal associate who refuses to defect — Danni Lipton (spirited work from Julie Warner) — plot not only to survive the jolt, but to gain a measure of revenge. First order of business: scrape the “Men” sign off the restroom closest to the center of things and replace it with one reading “Women.” These ladies are just ruthless.
In the script from exec producer Paul Haggis and Anne Kenney (the two also are listed as co-creators), Quinlan’s character is all over the map, alternately vulnerable and unconquerable. Warner, in portraying an ambitious firebrand, is at least consistent (and altogether winning). Future episodes promise to greater integrate Dixie Carter as a hard-charging Southern belle of a lawyer who joins Holt’s firm, and Christopher McDonald as a smarmy, dweeby barrister sharing office space.
While “Family Law” is not without charm and intellect, it already has some obvious problems besides its gender-hostile tone. One is the fact that Lynn Holt’s home life, with two young children, is virtually ignored in the wake of her longtime husband’s splitting.
And here is evidently an example of Haggis’ legal expertise: Holt attempts in the pilot to reunite a woman with her young adolescent son, who lives with a foster family in the wake of her longtime crack cocaine addiction. She’s now been clean for two years. But during a brief visit with his biological mom, the boy leaves a huge rock of coke on the table and walks out. Mom can’t resist, overdoses and nearly dies. Holt’s reaction: “This will help your case, because it shows that the foster parents allow the boy to procure crack while under their care.”
If I’m a client in this law firm, this might be about the time I take a walk across the street
Tech credits are solid aside from an irritating soft-focus style in the camera work that CBS insists won’t be repeated in future episodes.