Review: Harry’s Law 1×1

A show about lawyers who also sell shoes

Harry's Law

In the US: Mondays, 10/9c, NBC

Think of David E Kelley and one name immediately comes to mind, doesn’t it? Wonder Woman.

Hang on. Scratch that. Remind me to use that intro in a year or so. Let’s start again.

Think of David E Kelley and one name immediately comes to mind, doesn’t it? Ally McBeal. Kelley, a former lawyer, was the creator of Ally McBeal and since finishing that show, has gone on to corner the quirky, largely female-oriented, lawyer show market, with programmes such as The Practice, Girls Club and Boston Legal.

Now, he’s over at NBC with Oscar-winner Kathy Bates with – yep, you guessed it – a quirky, largely female-oriented, lawyer show that sees Bates playing Harriet Korn, one of the country’s top patent lawyers, who finally realises that patent law is dull and decide to take up criminal law instead. Taking her secretary along for the ride, Korn sets up shop in a rough part of Cincinnati, where she quickly recruits Nate Corddry (Studio 60), one of her former patent law adversaries, to help defend universally ethnic alleged criminals against injustice – and sell shoes.

No really, they sell shoes as well. Told you it was quirky. Here’s a trailer and a much more informative promo based on the original pilot, which co-starred Ben Chaplin instead of Nate Corddry.

Emmy Award-winning writer/producer David E. Kelley (“Boston Legal,” “The Practice,” “Ally McBeal”) weaves his rich storytelling into a new legal dramedy starring Academy Award winner Kathy Bates in the title role – about how people can embrace the unexpected and other curveballs that life can throw at them.

Harriet “Harry” Korn (Kathy Bates, “Misery,” “About Schmidt”) doesn’t believe things happen for a reason, but she discovers that they sometimes do. A curmudgeonly ex-patent lawyer, Harry is abruptly fired from her blue chip law firm, forcing her to search for a fresh start. She finds it when her world unexpectedly collides, literally, with Malcolm Davies (Aml Ameen, “Kidulthood”), a kind-hearted college student who desperately needs Harry’s help with his pending court case, and he subsequently goes to work for her.

Harry soon finds her balance as well as new offices in an abandoned shoe store just as legal hotshot Adam Branch (Nate Corddry, “The United States of Tara,” “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”) accidentally hits her while driving. Inspired by Harry’s no-nonsense understanding of the law, Adam decides to take leave of his shiny corporate firm to go and work with her. Harry, Adam and Malcolm – unlikely but kindred spirits – along with the help of Harry’s shoe-savant assistant, Jenna (Brittany Snow, “Hairspray,” “American Dreams”), are now ready for whatever walks in through the doors of their unique establishment – Harriet’s Law and Fine Shoes.

“Harry’s Law” is produced by Bonanza Productions Inc. in association with David E. Kelley Productions and Warner Bros. Television. David E. Kelley (“Boston Legal,” “The Practice”) and Bill D’Elia (“Boston Legal,” “The Practice”) serve as executive producers. D’Elia also serves as director.

Is it any good?
Compared to some of the bland stuff that has been churned out by US networks over the past six months, Harry’s Law is breath of fresh air, going for funny and interesting and actually achieving it a lot of the time. However, it’s not that special.

This largely fits the previous templates set by Kelley, with a couple of law cases per episode, tried by idiosyncratic lawyers who largely appeal to the better, liberal natures of the people in the courtroom to help the innocents on trial. Rather than focusing purely on the law cases, Harry’s Law deals with the personal missions and feelings of the lawyers involved, usually with zinging dialogue.

And it’s hard not to feel like we’ve seen all this a dozen times before. Within the law cases, largely you know what the endings of all the plot threads are going to be and how everyone’s going to behave.

Where the show does deliver surprises is outside the courtroom. Unless you’ve watched that promo I embedded back there, there are several genuine, funny surprises in the first quarter of an hour. I have to confess I did not see Brittany Snow’s character setting up a shoe shop in the company’s offices later in the show, either. The show also plays with your expectations of how characters will behave, with various criminals not exactly being hardcore. So it’s nice to see at least some originality on display.

Largely, the show rests on Kathy Bates’ shoulders and most of the initial episode is about establishing her character, rather than the supporting characters. She obviously rises to the challenge well and I could see myself watching the show purely for her: it is good to see an older woman as the lead in a show for a change. Corddry’s character is largely face-pulling and he doesn’t come anywhere near Bates or even Ben Chaplin, whom he replaced, in the acting stakes. Snow’s somewhat airheaded stereotype of secretary – do valley girls move to Cincinnati for fashion? This seems unlikely – actually does fair somewhat better, with Snow at least giving a decent performance and getting some decent lines.

Aml Ameen (Kidulthood – see? They couldn’t fire all the Brits), who starts off on trial for cocaine possession, ends up working for Bates, so the first episode treads a fine line between showing what a great kid he is – and having him be a cocaine-using repeat offender. Indeed, virtually all the black and Latino characters in the show are criminals and the only Indian character? He’s a doctor. Hmm.

As it is, Harry’s Law isn’t brilliant TV, but it’s not bad. If you watch it, you’ll probably be entertained, but it’s not something you should go out of your way to catch. If they’d kept Ben Chaplin, it would have been better, but you still can’t get away from the fact that we’ve seen a lot of shows a lot like this over the years and this one isn’t so very, very different from the others – even if they do run a shoe shop as well.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.