SINGLE WITH CHILDREN - KEVIN
by Christine Alice Corcos
Kevin Hill is a much better show than its advertising
campaign last fall suggested, and rapidly becoming as good a
show as it can be. The commercials emphasized Kevin (Taye Diggs)'s
sex appeal, his love life and his charisma, and how all of that
would cause problems for him when he meets up with a one year
child-his dead cousin's daughter, Sarah, who becomes his ward
in the first episode. Instant conflict! What will Kevin do when
he has to decide between going out on a date with an attractive
woman and staying in with little Sarah who has the sniffles?
What a dilemma!
It is a dilemma for a young professional in his late 20s,
used to putting his own desires first and not quite ready to
settle down. The girlfriends who drift in and out of Kevin's
life and the clients who pay his fees have tried and failed to
make him see what Sarah communicates to him in about forty-eight
hours-that sometimes other people come first. In fact, Sarah's
crying for her lost daddy and the fact that Kevin can't find
a sitter keeps this self-absorbed young attorney up so that he
can't prepare for his cases. His senior partner tells him to
choose between his position at the firm and the baby. Out of
loyalty to his cousin, Kevin ultimately chooses Sarah. In the
first episode, he's back on the street fairly quickly, looking
for a position that will allow him to care for Sarah as well
as pursue his legal career. The show thus presents us with a
male character who has to face several problems usually reserved
for women with children: looking for jobs that allow them to
spend time with their children for at least part of the day and
looking for jobs that will pay for child care that covers the
rest of the day. It's not an easy task, as Kevin finds out fairly
quickly. He tries various firms throughout the city, and each
rejects him, worried that the strain of caring for Sarah will
distract him. They've also heard that he has mishandled a couple
of cases since Sarah arrived, so their concerns are justified.
Luckily for our hero he's an honors graduate of a prestigious
New York area law school, and he's male (though African-American).
He stumbles on a law firm (Grey and Associates) founded and run
by a woman (Michael Michele) who faces the very same problem.
She tells Kevin she wanted to set up a firm that would allow
women attorneys to practice law on their terms, at their pace,
at their own time, and with time off if they needed it to see
to their children. What a break! But Kevin's not convinced. After
all, he was once an associate at a big-time law firm. He's not
certain he wants to throw in his lot with a bunch of women at
a store front practice, even if they are pretty good lawyers.
In addition, he's had a brief affair with one of them (Kate Levering),
and he's not certain that he could handle seeing her every day.
Viewers please note: almost every week Kevin will run into women
with whom he's had, well, how can I put this delicately-dalliances.
At this point, we are entitled to think, and I do think, that
in the past Kevin has been quite a piece of work. Has he always
walked away from women after bedding them? What effect will having
custody of a young girl have on this pattern of behavior?
Since the offer from Grey and Associates is the only one he gets,
Kevin decides to take it. The other women in the firm are less
enthusiastic than the founding partner, however, but Kevin turns
on the charm. His aggressive style is not what they are used
to however, and many of the episodes emphasize clashes, either
in court or in the office, during which the attorneys argue over
how to handle clients or who should handle trial strategy. In
one episode, "Making the Grade," Kevin and Nicolette,
the fourth attorney in the practice, take on the defense of a
man who runs a dating service and who is accused of fraud by
a client who did not find his "perfect match." Nicolette
clearly does not like the client or his services and has difficulty
creating an adequate defense; Kevin simply forges ahead. But
he alienates the jury with his characterization of the plaintiff
as a pathetic whiner to such an extent that Nicolette must take
over the case. In another episode he realizes the limitations
of the law when he realizes both that his mentor from law school
is guilty of sexual harassment and that he will not be able to
bring the man to justice. Several episodes demonstrate Kevin's
inability to tone down his approach and his need to learn to
be a real "team player" (as opposed to the kind of
"team playing" that some men mean when they use the
term). In the law firm Kevin has now joined, "team playing"
means listening to what other people say, and hearing them. It
does not mean preparing what you are going to say while waiting
for them to stop talking. Kevin's evolution from a cocky know
it all to a more mature adult, is heartening to watch.
Similarly, Kevin's relationships progress from one-night stands
with pretty women who leave him because he simply won't call
to friendships, if not actual commitments. When Sarah's nanny
George tells a woman in whom Kevin is genuinely interested that
he isn't the type to get serious, Kevin is furious, not solely
because it isn't as true now as it has been in the past as because
he realizes that he has no right to expect that George trust
him in this matter. Just because he is trying very hard to make
certain that in this particular case a real relationship develops
does not mean that he is entitled to the benefit of the doubt.
Kevin, like Sarah, is growing, and so is this show. Past actions
have present consequences, not just for Kevin's clients, but
The legal issues presented in Kevin Hill test boundaries.
In some cases they are reminiscent of Ally McBeal. In
"Homework," a woman sues her daughter for mishandling
a trust fund because the young woman is getting investment advice
from her dead father via a psychic. In others they are truly
well thought out and quite provocative. The writers do a creditable
job of explaining complex legal theories to the lay public. In
"Snack Daddy," a client wants to sue her employer for
sex discrimination because she has been terminated from her position
as a sales representative. The employer claims she hasn't been
performing well and clients have complained. The evidence seems
to support the employer's position until Kevin and his colleagues
investigate by asking the clients. What is incredible in the
story, however, is that they seem to wait until the last minute.
The client is ready to sign a paltry settlement; Kevin rushes
in shouting, "Wait! Don't sign!" having discovered
that "someone" (the client's fiancé) concocted
a story about the client not performing well as a sales rep.
This creep's explanation is that one of the two of them would
have had to leave the company once they were married-why is not
evident. His career was more solid than hers, and he would have
supported her anyway. The writers use the "surprise ending"
to augment our appreciation of Kevin's skill as a lawyer. In
truth, he looks less competent. Competent lawyers would have
interviewed the clients to find out what they thought of the
woman, and would have tumbled to the discrepancies in the employer's
story much sooner than do Kevin and his colleagues. The writers
could still have made a surprise ending out of confronting the
fiancé and surprising the client in a meeting. It didn't
have to be at the last minute, precisely when she was signing
the settlement agreement and waiving her rights. In the same
episode we see Kevin begin a relationship with a single mother
he meets at Sarah's day care. He likes her, but not enough to
continue seeing her when he discovers that she wants to continue
seeing him, even though the only thing that he can point to that
makes him uncomfortable is precisely that (see comments above).
Kevin Hill is on my list of favorite television lawyer
shows for this season. I rarely miss it, because I truly like
the acting-it's fresh and vigorous. I particularly admire Patrick
Breen as the caring nanny George, who hands out tough love and
dating tips with equal fervor. The female attorneys have plenty
to do, and they do it with competence. Sarah is a refreshingly
real little girl, not an overly cute Hollywood creation. And
Taye Diggs as Kevin shows both masculinity and emotion. He is
an accomplished actor with presence and style. In the Popular
Culture Defense Bar Association (PCDBA) Kevin Hill should run
Posted March 10, 2005