TOM PAXTON WAS RIGHT
FALL SEASON PROMISES MANY, MANY LAWYERS
by Christine A. Corcos
Oh, a suffering world cries
As far as the eye can see,
Lawyers around every bend in the road.
Lawyers in every tree.
Lawyers in restaurants.
Lawyers in clubs.
Lawyers behind every door.
Behind windows and potted plants,
Shade trees and shrubs.
Lawyers on pogo sticks.
Lawyers in politics.
In ten years we're gonna have one million lawyers.
How much can a poor nation stand.
Tom Paxton, In Ten Years We're
Gonna Have One Million Lawyers, From One Million Lawyers and
Other Disasters, Flying Fish Records.
Tom Paxton never wrote truer
words, and I realize that every time I see the announcements
for the new shows on U. S. television networks. The Fall 2003
season is absolutely in line with previous years. As the leaves
fall and footballs fly, get ready for these exciting (?) innovative
(!?) new programs, in which both attorneys and cops (including
FBI agents) become rehabilitated, either through their own efforts,
or through the desire of a nation under siege to find heroes
From ABC comes a show about "a recovering alcoholic"
who leaves big time law practice for a store front office in
a strip mall. Better Days (originally called The Flannerys)
stars Jeffrey Nordling as the Irish American who turns his life
around, having seen the shallowness and amorality of corporate
law. This show was probably inspired by the success of CBS' The
Guardian, also about a lawyer who is redeemed, and farther
back, by the big screen Regarding Henry, with Harrison
Ford as the lawyer who has to lose his memory to regain his soul.
NB: Don't confuse this show with the failed pilot of the same
name (also from ABC) starring Jim Belushi as a laid off auto
Also from ABC: The DA, starring Steven Weber as the attorney
of the title who solves the murder of an associate. Oh, goody:
a dead lawyer! The Street Lawyer, starring Hal Holbrook,
and based on the John Grisham novel, also makes its debut on
ABC. ABC also plans to offer us law-related shows such as 10-8
(rookie cop drama/comedy), Alaska (state trooper solves
crimes), Karen Sisco (based on a character from the Jennifer
Lopez movie Out of Sight), Lines of Duty (FBI rookie
goes up against a mob boss); The Partners (female cops
go undercover), Threat Matrix (about the fight against
terrorism), in all of which lawyers are likely to make at least
token appearances. There's also something called Then Came
Jones, set in a brothel at the turn of the 20th century;
the legal profession will undoubtedly show up somewhere in that
series as well.
CBS has on offer Century City, a futuristic law show with
Eric Schaeffer and Viola Davis. This promising show will investigate
how the legal system might change by 2053. Check out the TV
Tome page. CBS is also proposing a JAG spinoff with
Mark Harmon and the perennially popular (and underrated) David
McCallum (remember The Man From U.N.C.L.E.)? Law-related
shows include Criminology 101, about two students who
put what they learn in class to good use in crime-solving, Expert
Witness (about forensic pathologists: Calling Dr. Quincy!),
The Law and Henry Lee, starring Danny Glover as a P.I.
in San Francisco, Street Boss, another cop show, The
Unsolved, about a woman detective who handles cold cases,
and Violent Crime, about Boston policewomen handling just
what the title suggests.
Fox plans to air The Circuit, premised on an examination
of court cases seen through the eyes of the jury. Like Century
City, this series at least suggests originality. Fox's law-related
shows include The Break, about a cop who moves to Hawaii
with his son, the futuristic NYPD 2069, about a cop who
was frozen and is now defrosted.
Lifetime has bought three series featuring law enforcement: Follow
the Leeds (the "leads", get it???!), starring Elizabeth
Densmore as a private investigator, and Wild Card, about
insurance investigators, and starring Joely Fisher (I hate to
think that her last name is "Wild" but it probably
is); and 1-800-Missing, about a psychic who helps an FBI
agent solve crimes.
NBC will schedule EDNY, about New York district attorneys,
with William Baldwin, Rob Lowe in The Lyon's Den, a law
firm drama (his name doesn't seem to be Lyon or Lyons so I'm
at a loss to understand the title, but see TV
Tome's page, and Miss Match, with Alicia Silverstone
(Clueless) as a lawyer who tries to find people their
true loves (Mis-match, get it?????!!!). Its law-related series
include Casino Eye, about casino security and starring
James Caan, Future Tense (another punningly titled program)
set in the "near future" and featuring high tech, Gated
World, with Phil Hendrie as a former cop who takes a job
as head of security at a gated community, Homeland Security,
with Tom Skerritt and others as fighters against terrorism, Rupert
Everett in Mr. Ambassador (maybe we'll see some international
law?), The Real Deal, about a governor and his staff,
and Whoopi Goldberg in an as-yet untitled show about a former
singer who indulges in crime.
Law is peripheral to some other shows that frankly, look like
clones. In each, an individual or family actually has to go to
work when the head of the family gets arrested and convicted
of some dastardly deed. Check out Jenny McCarthy's proposed series
from ABC, (no title yet), and Arrested Development (from
Fox). Kevin Hart also has an ABC series ready, in which his family
loses its money, but it's not clear how that happens. The notion
of rich people getting their comeuppance seems quite popular
in a period in which we are enjoying stories about Ken Lay's
wife opening a resale shop. Psychic powers are still in vogue;
check out True Calling (Starring Eliza Dushku on Fox)
in which a woman discovers she can go back in time and prevent
tragedy (shades of Early Edition), Wonder Falls
(also Fox) in which a woman has visions, and Lifetime's 1-800-Missing.
Of course, whether one can truly interfere with the course of
events, and whether free will exists, are deep philosophical
questions that I am not certain these shows will investigate
thoughtfully. For a helpful essay on the philosophical problems
associated with time travel (if you go back in time and kill
your grandfather will you exist?) see geocities.com
or the time travel essay in the Internet
Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
UPN offers The Edge, about even more FBI agents and DEA
agents on the U. S. -Mexican border, Vegas Dick, about a former
crook recruited to work for a casino, and Weapon X, about
a National Security Agency operative who develops superpowers.
USA Network has ordered further development of three shows, a
Tom Berenger vehicle called Peacemakers, about law enforcement
in the Old West, Thought Crimes, which sounds like a Minority
Report-inspired series, and something called Touching
Evil, apparently based on a British television series, and
starring Peter Wingfield as a detective who develops psychic
powers (even better than 1-800-Missing!)
Finally, WB has Chasing Alice, in which a Scotland Yard
detective comes to New York to look for her missing sister, Fearless,
in which a girl is recruited to join the FBI, MacGyver,
an updating of the Richard Dean Anderson series, in which MacGyver's
nephew continues his uncle's work, Other People's Business,
about aimless L.A. types who decide to become private detectives,
and Tarzan, in which Tarzan comes to New York and meets
But we don't have to wait for
one new comedy, Gary the Rat, starring the voice of Kelsey
Grammer. It debuted June 26, 2003 and features a Harvard Law
School educated Wall Street lawyer who is so underhanded that
he actually turns into a rat. It's not clear how, but it may
be through a lightning strike. At any rate, his managing partner
seems to take Gary's new verminous condition in stride, except
for gratuitous remarks about his tail and generally furry appearance.
Of course, the partner, Jackson Harrison, needs all the help
he can get. He's only head of the firm because of the tragic
death of everybody else in a highly improbable bus accident.
Indeed, in Gary's world everything is slightly askew; his nemeses
include a dim-witted exterminator whose cat keeps trying to keep
him from harm and the consequences of his own stupidity, a pizza
delivery guy who insists on making nasty remarks about the clientele
and still expects a tip, and his mother, whom we never see, but
who calls Gary regularly to complain about her treatment at the
nursing home in which she's confined. Gary is less than sympathetic,
usually assuring her that the straps that the nursing staff use
to restrain her are for her own good, and that he'll see her
when he's not busy. Gary's self-centered, uncaring attitude is
what makes him a good lawyer, says the show, and it's also what
makes him an excellent rat. He does have his good points-he helps
the boss's secretary ward off the unwanted attentions of another
lawyer, and gets revenge on the fellow as well. Gary the Rat
is amusing, and gets its digs in not only at lawyers, but at
psychiatrists and many other professionals. The animation is
less than stellar (not as good as that for Stripperella,
for example), but what sells this show is the writing, which
is subtle and well, different. As Gary himself would say, "I
know about being different."
As I look over this unpromising roster, having seen NONE of these
shows, here's my psychic prediction: some of these shows will
air once or not at all. I don't hold out much hope that most
of them will go past two or three episodes. The most original-sounding
among them, Century City and The Circuit, probably
have no chance at all. Most likely to succeed? The ones with
psychics in them, which will last a season or two, because they
make the viewing public feel good. The ensemble dramas, like
Better Days, will stand or fall on whether we like the
characters. Most of the others, like The Street Lawyer,
in spite of its stellar lead, will be out on the street in an
episode or two.
For more about the upcoming fall season see the Pazsaz
Entertainment Network , TVTome
, and the websites of the various networks: ABC
; CBS ; Fox
; Lifetime ; USA
Brothers ; UPN and NBC.
For more about Gary the Rat see thenewtnn.com.
I like these pages in spite of TNN's slogan, The First Network
for Men. Seems to me a LOT of them are for men, and have been
since the beginning).
Posted August 19, 2003