Archives for posts with tag: law

It always amazes me how many different legal dramas and police procedurals America can produce. Here in the UK we either have ‘cosy crime’, ‘troubled DI/DCI solves crime of the week’ or ‘small community shocked to the core’. And we barely set foot in a courtroom.

But in America you are spoilt for choice. Navy cops, forensic teams, courtroom dramas, amateur detectives, you name it, America does it. You want a social commentary? They do that. Or do you just want to see cool explosions and high-stake car chases? They do that too.

Now we have Bull, set in the world jury psychology. Dr Bull runs a team specialising in manipulating juries into reaching decisions he clients want, all while lawyers are sceptical of his ability. It helps that, so far of the episodes I’ve seen, that he is on the good guys side, so any mind-bending is well deserved. Forcing people to recognise their gender bias or asking idiosyncratic questions are just some of his techniques.

He has a team supporting him – the computer hacker, the gay-yet-tough stylist, the smart-mouthed ex-lawyer and others. So far we only have a bit of their backgrounds dribbling out. No doubt there are some big emotional stories to be played out over the episodes, but I do hope these remain I side show.

I say that because the enjoyment of this show, for me at least, is the pseudo-science talks. I say pseudo-science, this could all be real science, but I don’t know. Anyway, it fascinates me how breaking down some biographical details of the jurors and building a profile of them is so influential. It is both brilliant and creepy how predictable we are if someone can just get a few bits of information on us.

It does sit slightly oddly between two stools though. The extra-ordinary nature of the cases means that it could easily fall into bubble-gum territory. Yet they do seem to have a social conscience about them that means that there is more to the plots than simply defending the innocent. I’m not saying it’s as deep as The Good Wife, but thinking it is just a bit of fluff is unfair.

Overall, I would say this is a solid show and a pleasing enough way to pass an hour. I find myself liking it more and more and having my cynicism eroded. And that is by no means a bad thing.

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I currently feel spilt for choice in terms of TV. Bar Saturday nights, which rarely show anything of quality in my opinion and have therefore become sky+ nights, I have at least a solid hours’ worth of great telly.

Even amongst this packed field, there are some highlights. Near the top of the list is legal drama The Good Fight, the spin-off from The Good Wife. I love this show for the same reasons I loved its predecessor: it is smartly written and well plotted with characters that are three-dimensional from the off, even relative bit part players. It isn’t afraid to engage with topical issues or to wear its liberal heart on its sleeve.

The show primarily follows Diane Lockhart and Maia Rindell, two lawyers at opposing points of their career but both impacted by a Ponzi scheme: Diane the victim who must put her retirement on hold and become a partner at an African-American dominated legal firm, Maia the daughter of the supposed creator who is starting her career at the same firm, plagued by rumours and trolls.

Whilst these are over-arching plots, which will now doubt move closer to centre stage as the season progresses, it is the individual cases and some of the sub-plots that really elevate this show. The intricacies of the legal system fascinate me, as opposing sides battle for their interpretation to be held valid or some obscure law that was never repealed to come to their aid. Likewise, the latest subplot, Mike Kresteva targeting the firm for it pursuing police brutality cases, is a further layer. There are so many spinning plates but the team behind the show never let one drop.

Besides Dianne Lockhart, there is a smattering of returning cast members. Cush Jumbo is back as Lucca Quinn, more spiky and whip-smart than ever. Marissa Gold, a bit-part player in Wife, is given a meatier place in the cast here, which I think is great, as she always brought extra zing to the few episodes she was in to the mother show. No doubt others will appear, in some cases maybe only briefly.

Of course, there is the question of what happened to Alicia Florrick, the wife of the original series. We have had hints – she doesn’t appear to be working in the law anymore for a start. Whether she is being primed by Eli for politics or is merely chasing Jason still is unknown. I’m not sure if this blank space helps or hinders Fight. Maybe the writers will throw us a bone and drop a few more hints.

Regardless, it is a pleasure to watch something that is well crafted and willing to grant its audience some intelligence. When something is this good, you do wonder, why isn’t every show trying to reach this level?

I must confess to not being a binge watcher. I think my brain is programmed in such a way to regard TV as a treat, something that is earned. Even on my days off, I have too much of a list of little things to do, as well as a social life that is enough to stop me being a hermit, to watch entire seasons of shows back to back. That doesn’t mean I can’t get some good TV watched – I can plough through a good 3 or 4 episodes of a decent American drama a week. Coupled with the fact that I still watch a lot of shows the episode the old-fashioned way of once a week, I never tear through seasons like so many others of my generation.

This is way I am only just starting season 5 of The Good Wife. Don’t get me wrong, I think I’ve made good progress, it’s just I know people who would zap through the 6 seasons on Netflix in the course of less than a month. Instead, I pootle along.

Having said that, there is something to be said for drip-feeding yourself good quality shows. Alicia’s rise to partner would seem frantically paced if taking place over a month; give yourself a good part of a year and you are able to drink in everything so much more. And it is a show worth drinking in.

For a start, it is smart, and getting smarter. It neatly and organically evolves from its ‘wronged-wife-goes-back-to-work’ premise to become a tale of political intrigue, office politics and, old chestnuts, love and friendship. I have adored seeing Cary Agos move from rival, to enemy, to good friend to Alicia Florrick, with no doubt more shape shifting to come. The chemistry between everyone almost literally crackles, a neat trick for a show that isn’t scared of layers.

My biggest love though, is for Eli Gold. Alan Cumming plays him so perfectly. Arrogant and with a malicious streak, Gold is also a surprising conduit for the show’s lighter moments. The scenes between Cumming and Margulies are amongst the most sublime you could see: unstoppable energy hitting an immovable object, whilst behind it all, a respect that has grown into a friendship.

See? Going through all these subtle shifts in power too quickly and you lose the beauty of what is being made. Binge watching is great if you intend to watch something disposable. However, if you want to really enjoy a show, slow the pace down. It is the respect some shows deserve.

Regular readers of this blog will know I love a legal drama, especially American ones. Suits, Boston Legal, Harry’s Law: all masterclasses in characterisation and storytelling. One though kept flying under the radar, and that was The Good Wife. I think this was partly because it seemed to be sold as primarily a domestic drama with the legal part of it a side line – woman rebuilds her life by being a lawyer. More than anything though, it always seems to clash with something else. As someone who has only just got Netflix and a Sky+ box, I faced a constant frustration of some nights being bereft of anything decent, and others being too full.

Thankfully, technology is remedying this woe, and searching for something new to watch on Netflix post-OITNB (come back soon gang!) settled on The Good Wife. I must admit to being dangerously close to giving in to the hype and watching Breaking Bad, but I am not ashamed to say that I needed something a little glossier.

And I am thankful I did. The Good Wife is fantastic. Ok, I am only four episodes into season 1, so I have a mighty journey to undertake, but even so I feel confident to state I have found a new addiction. I actually find the domestic angle on it less interesting than the makers want me to, but thankfully it features less than I initially thought it would, and even when it does is less saccharine than I expected.

The cases are delicious us as well. Murder trials brought down by carrier bags, felony murder charges dropped due to neighbourhood watch guidelines, you name it, our heroine Alicia Florrick will find the esoteric piece of evidence and win with it.

The supporting class are bubbling away nicely to, not least Kalinda the investigator, the right mix of respectable and sass to get her job done. I have a sneaking suspicion not all of them will still be there by the end of season 5 and it will be a wrench whoever goes and when but that is the price you pay for investing in excellent characters.

I don’t always get what the fuss is about shows, and I have heard so much hype about Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy that I have made a vow never to watch them. The Good Wife came close to languishing on that list to but fate intervened. And I am so bloody glad it did.

One of my favourite shows of all time, if not my absolute favourite, is Boston Legal. How I miss it. Clever plots, snappy dialogue, the bromance between William Shatner and James Spader, Candice Bergen showing every actress under the age of 40 how to play ‘Ice Queen’. My favourtie moments were when Spader, playing smart-mouthed lawyer Alan Shore, would launch his closing argument against some morally corrupt individual or corporation (sometimes even government itself), a blistering mix of vitriol and righteous indignation. The screen felt as though it was crackling with sheer energy. Its cancellation back in 2008 left a big hole in my life.

Then along came Suits. It has so many of the same ingredients as Boston Legal. The legal plots are full of cases that are unwinnable, yet are often (but not always) won. The dialogue is as sharp. There is even a connection between senior partner Harvey Spectre and new associate Mike Ross, although right now this feels more like some Karate Kid-esque ‘mentor-mentee’ dynamic than a bromance. I enjoy it for all the reasons I did the former.

But there are some major gaps between the two. The first is we are dealing with primarily business law here, as opposed to criminal and civil action suits. The plots are all about takeovers, mergers, dismissal claims. There is little space for the kooky aspects of law, or for tacking bigger social issues. Perhaps this is why I find Suits less satisfying than I perhaps would like. There’s no big arena for the good guys to make their point, no opportunity to grandstand. Everything is solved behind the scenes, often through some veiled threat about public humiliation.

There is also a darker underbelly in Suits, or at least one that is more omnipresent than in Boston Legal. Everything is dependent on careful machinations. If Boston Legal was about convincing the opposition you are right, Suits is about manipulating them into thinking you are right. Plant the right seed, the right way, and allow the recipient to grow the thought in their own time. Everybody is a puppet to person who can pull the strings best. Victory is only gained by getting dirty.

Despite this, Suits is to all intents and purposes an enjoyable show. Perhaps we just need to remember not all those on the side of the angels are them. Besides, there’s a fabulous new baddie. Former senior partner Daniel Hardman is back, a man so black-hearted he makes Rotweiler-in-human-form Louis quiver. It seems like being the good guy is going to mean playing nastier than ever.