Subjecting attractive young attorneys to a “The Apprentice”-style grilling from a wily old litigator, “The Law Firm” theoretically represents David E. Kelley’s “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” addition to the unscripted logjam. Skillfully assembled, show’s biggest problem is the crush of similar elimination games, making it questionable whether viewers will want to spend the dog days of summer with a dozen lawyers, even ones straight out of central casting.
Teaming Kelley with the producers of “Blind Date” might generate extra interest in TV circles, inasmuch as the renowned writer-producer has blasted the mean-spiritedness of so-called reality TV, both in interviews and on “The Practice.” The show itself, however, is standard unscripted fare — a far cry from, say, “Crime and Punishment,” Dick Wolf’s documentary-style version of the “Law & Order” franchise, which offered a serious extension of that ubiquitous brand.
“The Law Firm” is in essence “L.A. Law” lite, down to the sets and neatly tailored suits. Trial attorney Roy Black is the latest well-established figure to seemingly put his career on hold for the warming glow of the TV spotlight, overseeing lawyers who compete in real court cases and then dismissing them based on their performance.
Not surprisingly, homely attorneys need not apply, and the participants spend the first hour sizing each other up and squabbling — including, no lie, a case involving a three-legged dog. If that’s Kelley’s idea of a subtle commentary about reality TV, more power to him, though the stakes do grow as the competition progresses.
The series does what it can to build suspense regarding the outcome of the trials and which lawyer will get the boot next, but it’s still hard to breathe much freshness into this musty formula.
On the plus side, Black’s rationale in deciding who is sent packing benefits from a higher degree of well-articulated logic than Kathy Hilton brought to the party, and at least the combatants are vying within their chosen field, not arbitrary “challenges.”
If nothing else, “The Law Firm” seems a nifty way of reducing fatuous litigation by keeping lawyers occupied and sequestered, though the $250,000 prize is rather small potatoes considering what a top litigator can earn — additional proof that a few minutes of fame trump money within the genre.
So what do you call a dozen lawyers in a reality TV show? Hardly a disaster in this case, but essentially just another wannabe, at a point where similar pleas for viewers have been almost uniformly rejected for a lack of appeal.