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Review: "Fairly Legal" Nimbly Avoids the "Barely Legal" Pitfalls of Bikini-Body Television

By Dustin Rowles | TV | March 1, 2011 | Comments ()

By Dustin Rowles | TV | March 1, 2011 |


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For someone who wears a bikini as well as Sarah Shahi does, the USA Network is doing something fairly remarkable for her character in its new show, "Fairly Legal." They're keeping her clothes on. Through six episodes of the series, there have been no gratuitous ass shots, no bed-humping shenanigans, and no half-naked frolics on the beach, even though "Fairly Legal" is set in San Francisco. It almost seems like a waste, but for the fact that it allows us to appreciate what a vibrant and personable actress Shahi is, a younger generation Sandy B. who can win you over with her goofy charm without resorting to Strahovskian belly-dance garb and lingerie.

In "Fairly Legal," Shahi plays Kate Reed, an attorney turned mediator, who is more interested in the romantic notion of justice than she is in the black-letter law. She's of the typical USA Network stock: Quirky (she assigns a different "Wizard of Oz" character ringtone to her friends and family), breezy, and superficially smart, and her allure is more in her character than in her body shape. As the series opens, Kate's father has recently passed, and Kate and her controlling step-mother are trying to keep their law practice afloat, fighting to hang on to old clients and develop new ones.

The mediation angle also allows "Fairly Legal" to put a slight twist on the the typical legal show, eschewing courtroom objections for conference room antics with a certain David E. Kelley flair. There's also a relationship angle -- Kate is has an on-again, off-again relationship with her ex-husband, a district attorney played by "Battlestar Galactica's" Michael Trucco. That relationship allows the show to still occasionally peek inside a courtroom, usually one under the judgeship of tough-guy-soft-heart Gerald McRaney. To round out the lightweight quirk, there's also a "Buffy" loving legal assistant (Baron Vaughn), who is also an aspiring graphic novelist. He's adorable.

At its worst, "Fairly Legal" is a cute show, fast-paced, enjoyable, and easy to watch, not unlike early seasons of most of the other USA Network fare. But it also possess a shallow indictment of the legal profession in the way that the series often takes issue with the arbitrariness of rules, and how our society is so quick to assign priority to law over justice, no matter what the result. It's refreshing to see a character who is motivated by compromise, even moreso in a show capable of extracting a modicum of drama out of the middle ground. Ninety percent of all legal cases are settled out of court*, so it's nice to see a show reflect that instead of separating the world into winners and losers, highlighting that contentiousness. It's a better show for what it's trying to say than for what it actually does, but it's a pleasantly diverting hour of programming all the same.

*Not a real statistic.




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