I try to give all the new legal shows a fair chance. So when I started watching Fairly Legal, the new USA show, I was really hopeful. USA has a great track record of developing shows I enjoy. In fact, I think I watch all of their original shows: Burn Notice (one of the best shows on TV), Psych, In Plain Sight, White Collar, Royal Pains and Covert Affairs are all season passes on my TiVo. So I thought, yay, finally there will be a fun legal show I can watch.
The fact that the show has a mediator as its lead character made me really excited, since I’m a mediator, since I talk about mediation in The Writer’s Guide to the Courtroom: Let’s Quill All the Lawyers, and since the only other show with mediator characters I can recall is Wedding Crashers. When I teach at writing conferences, I always talk about underutilized characters in the legal system that writers can utilize to get away from the old typecasting. Mediators have great possibilities, so I encourage writers to use them in their stories.
The characterization was pretty good, and that’s what USA is particularly good at. They develop interesting characters with interesting backgrounds and make them funny. Fairly Legal started out so well – the mediator was the victim of an armed robbery and she negotiated a resolution that was a win-win for the robber and store owner. Fantastic!
Then it went utterly off the rails. The mediator is a former lawyer who works for her now-deceased father’s law firm. The wicked stepmother is in charge and clients start abandoning the firm the day of Dad’s funeral. The firm’s in trouble, and one of the firm’s clients is about to walk away from a deal the firm negotiated. Wicked SM wants our mediator to mediate the client back on track. In the meantime, a judge who hates our mediator appoints her to mediate a case he thinks is a waste of time. Okay, so far not so bad.
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