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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2008-2009 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot - or in this new post-strike/straight-to-series world, reading the pilot script. We'll start with the ones that were actually filmed and move on to the others in the coming weeks.
With that in mind, it's even more important to remember that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. Plus: as an added bonus, we've got a backlog of passed over pilots - some from this season, some from last season - we'll be tackling as well. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
THE PILOTS THAT DIDN'T MAKE THE CUT: MAKING IT LEGAL (ABC, 2007)
(written by Gabe Sachs & Jeff Judah; directed by Gary Halvorson; TRT: 22:06)
The network's description: "In the competitive world of high-pressure law firms, either you make partner or you make plans to find a new job. Unfortunately, you could be competing with your closest friends, your surrogate family and sometimes even the people you date. If you don't make it to the top, you hope your friend makes it. But deep down, you wish it were you. The blue team is one of eight litigation groups at The Firm. Josh and Julie are the leaders and just a couple years away from the partnership vote. Only one can make it, however, which is difficult enough when you're competing with a friend, but even more so when that friend is also a former romantic involvement. Another team member, Elise, is torn between competing full-speed for partner or deciding to take the mommy track instead. But first, she needs to find someone to sidetrack with her. Ethan may be the smartest, but being home schooled is better training for Spelling Bees and Star Wars conventions than White Shoe law firms. Then there's Todd, a first-year associate on his first day and the son of a famous trial attorney, trying not to trip as he runs from the giant shadow cast by his father. Theresa, the mother hen paralegal, keeps them all in line but is viewed with a mixture of love and fear. Together, the blue team forms a bond that only working 80-hour weeks, meeting impossible demands by impatient bosses, and a really smoking iTunes collection can build. Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah who created "Life As We Know It" and also wrote for "Freaks and Geeks" and "Just Shoot Me," take a comic look at the high-rise world of ambition and friendship, where there is more to gain or lose than a career."
What did they leave out: Some of the character names have changed in the filmed version.
The plot in a nutshell: After five years as platonic co-workers at Kolar, Dalton, Babbit & Leahy, divorce lawyers Josh (Scott Wolf) and Julie (Ashley Williams) have finally given into their carnal desires for each other. But with their new relationship comes a new peril, one which prevented them from getting together in the first place - after years of competition as part of the firm's "blue team," only one will eventually be named a junior partner. Before they can discuss how to proceed though, they'll need to survive another day at the office. Kolar (Robert Wagner) wants Trevor (Ben Savage), one of his new recruits (and the son of a legal legend), to take the lead on Josh's big case. Offended, Josh tries to make Trevor miserable by saddling him with an endless amount of files. In the meantime, word starts to spread around the office about Josh and Julie's tryst - including sassy paralegal Theresa (Kym Whitley), oddball Ethan (Geoffrey Arend) and high strung Elise (Ayda Field). And so after Trevor collapses under the pressure, Kolar asks Julie to help handle things - once again offending Josh. Not surprisingly this brings their relationship issues to the forefront as the two start to realize working together and playing together won't work. Nevertheless, everybody - including Trevor - gets it together in time to rally for their client ("What About Brian's" Amanda Detmer) during a key deposition. And so - for now - Josh and Julie are going to stay at arms length... if they can.
What works: Yikes.
What doesn't: Mind-numbingly over the top and chemistry free, there's not one moment that comes across as authentic in the entire show. Literally 22 minutes of endless mugging (What if we say things louder, will that make it funnier? No, how about if we wave our arms and wave profusely? Still no.), "Legal" is stunningly laugh free (the laugh track notwithstanding). Not helping matters is that Williams and Wolf don't manage to sell that they're friends, let alone potential lovers. They're however given two dimensions whereas the supporting cast struggles to have even one. For instance, Ethan's sole character traits are that he does really bad celebrity impersonations at every turn and he once hooked up with co-worker Pauline (formerly Paul), who's not quite 100% woman yet. Meanwhile, Trevor's sole gear is panic while Theresa and Elise are just kind of there.
The bottom line: As I said, yikes.