Review: For the People 1×1 (US: ABC)

Young and stupid lawyers do young and stupid things

For The People

In the US: Tuesdays, 10/9c, ABC

It’s possible that I’ve seen too much TV. It’s just watching For The People, ABC’s latest legal drama, all I found myself thinking was, “Isn’t this just Raising the Bar again? Maybe with a slight hint of Suits. Still, it’s nice to Britt Robertson doing well, even if Girlboss didn’t do so great. She was good in Life Unexpected after all. Gosh, how long ago was that now?”

Too much TV? Maybe.

The next generation

After all, this tale from “Shondaland” (Grey’s Anatomy, How To Get Away With Murder, Scandal) of shiny new young lawyers as they start off as either defence attorneys or prosecutors in New York’s “mother court” is probably aimed at a much younger audience that hasn’t seen any of those shows I just mentioned. Indeed, I found myself more invested in Hope Davis, Ben Shenkman, Vondie Curtis-Hall and Anna Deavere Smith’s crusty older lawyers and judges giving the new generation the benefit of their many years of experience. That’s possibly because I’m just old, but it’s also possibly because they’re better actors, with personalities and who behave like grown-ups, unlike their protégés. Their whiny, stupid protégés.

But despite generally finding the older cast relatively interesting, I found myself idling through For the People, wondering if it was going to do anything new. Like ever. The show is really just a set of legal cases, with a young hero on each side making mistakes while standing up for truth, justice and the American Way/sending scumbag criminals to rot in jail (delete according to hero’s affiliation). There’s no real law that people would recognise as the law. Indeed, I found myself on the verge of crying out, “Objection! The defence is testifying! Is there a question in there ever?” at one point of particularly heinous breach of legal code that the prosecution didn’t seem to notice.

Too much TV? Probably.

For the People
For The People – (l-r) Anna Deavere Smith as Tina Krissman, Ben Shenkman as Roger Gunn, Ben Rappaport as Seth Oliver, Susannah Flood as Kate Littlejohn, Regé-Jean Page as Leonard Knox, Britt Robertson as Sandra Bell, Jasmin Savoy Brown as Allison Adams, Wesam Keesh as Jay Simmons, Hope Davis as Jill Carlan, and Vondie Curtis-Hall as Judge Nicholas Byrne. (ABC/Craig Sjodin)

Nothing new

But for the most part it’s the usual usual. Britt Robertson’s client is an accused terrorist, although for some reason he doesn’t get a proper lawyer or any preparation for his trial. You’d think someone who tried to blow up the Statue of Liberty would have a higher profile, wouldn’t you?

But before you know it, she’s finding things in discovery that might exonerate him. Except you can see that he won’t be. The show thinks it’s going to be clever. It even gets Hope Davis to say “This isn’t television!” Except it is, so you know what’s going to happen.

And the rest of it is like that. There is some moderate interest from the fact that the lawyers mostly don’t discuss law half the time, mainly tell each other how crap they are at law because they’re new. But even then, that got boring after the first five or six times that happened.

Equally boring were the young lawyers’ relationships. They’re all so competitive and “I will crush you”, even to their partners. Boring. When one is stupid enough to shop her prosecutor boyfriend for ethical violations to save her client from a prison sentence, she’s genuinely surprised that he decides to dump her.

“I’m leaving.”

“You’re not leaving.”

Yes, he is, love. You nearly sent him to prison to save someone who’d genuinely committed fraud. Duh.

It’s nonsense. Legal nonsense. Relationship nonsense. Human behaviour nonsense. The kind of nonsense that you only see on TV and will have seen countless times before.

Unless you’re about 20.


Save yourself an hour of your time. Maybe you could watch the William Shatner For the People on YouTube instead?


  • 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.

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