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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2010-2011 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season (or one that didn't make the cut) and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. Keep in mind 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. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on the original sales presentation which was screened to us privately or supplied by a third party NOT an informational, not-for-review screener provided by the network in question.]
LEGALLY MAD (NBC)
(written by David E. Kelley; directed by Kenny Ortega; TRT: 43:35)
The network's description: No official description has been released...
What did they leave out? ...so everything.
The plot in a nutshell: Brady Hamm (Charity Wakefield) may be the only sane one at the Chicago-based law firm of Hamm, Pearle & Koenig. Case in point: their biggest client, Warren Belson (John Aylward), is demanding to see the senior partners - Gordon (Hugh Bonneville), Brady's father, and Steven Pearle (Tom Hollander) - and they're off singing "Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love)" by the Swingin' Medallions at a bar, complete with light-up fedoras. The junior associates are of no help either - Paige (Marcy Harriell) is more concerned with her singing career, Joe (Jon Seda) likes to hit people for some reason and Skippy (Kristin Chenoweth) just seems to float around in a cloud of perkiness.
The elder statesmen aren't much better as Lou (Kurt Fuller) wants to quit the firm to become an actor and Aaron (Josh Malina), despite having his name on the wall, keeps on getting called Oren. Only Jeanette (Loretta Devine) seems to possess any lucidity. Her message to Brady is simple - run away from this madhouse as fast as possible, advice which comes into play after she's offered a prestigious clerkship in Washington. Brady's however worried about leaving her father alone. In seems in the years since her mom died, he's decided to simply embrace joy at every turn, regardless of the consequences. And so if that means singing his lungs out while clients threaten to leave, so be it.
And while normally Brady is able to cover for everyone, things are about to take a turn for the worse: Steven learns his emotionally-starved wife Sylvie (Melinda McGraw) is leaving him, not to mention has slept with Lou. And more pressingly, Aaron has apparently decided to embezzle money from Warren - news which will see the firm lose 80% of its business. Ultimately - and inexplicably - it's nothing that an impassioned plea by Brady, who decides she wants to say, can't cure. That and the cast's rendition of Rod Stewart's "This Old Heart Of Mine" (plus "Shake Your Tail Feather" by the Blues Brothers over the end credits for good measure).
What works: If "Harry's Law" was all over the place...
What doesn't: ...then this is just an incomprehensible mess. Plots and characters randomly drop from the sky without explanation or motivation. For instance, Lou sleeps with Sylvie, apologizes to Steven, quits, turns up inexplicably to give Brady advice (and she, for reasons never given, insists she can't do the job without him), announces he wants to be an actor then shows up again during Brady's final speech (and presumably) is sticking around. Um, what? That kind of scattershot dynamic applies to virtually everyone - whether it be minor (Joe essentially disappears after the opening act) or major (Brady deciding to stay) characters - as everything just turns on a dime for no apparent reason.
It's almost as if you built a random clip show of all of Kelley's shows: in theory, fun moments, but all assembled in a way that makes no sense. I guess the show is going for some kind of inmates running the asylum type shtick (the office, as Warren so aptly points out, looks like something from "Alice in Wonderland") but with little to no grounding it just spins off into space. And as much as I love the cast - Kristin Chenoweth in a law show where she sings, dances and has an office that looks like Hello Kitty exploded? I'd normally be in - it's still a whirlwind of ridiculousness for what seems simply the sake of ridiculousness. Call me crazy but...
The bottom line: ...I need a whole lot more from a TV series.