As I mentioned last week, in The Five Best Legal Shows of All Time: A Lawyer’s Perspective, I don’t even know why the networks continue to try launching new legal shows that don’t have Dick Wolf or David E. Kelley attached. They almost always fail, and none of them get it right. ABC’s “The Deep End” just happens to get it more wrong than most.
Indeed, it’s something like the 47th failed take on the first-year corporate lawyer premise, which networks continue to trot out failing to understand two things: 1) nobody gives a good goddamn about first-year associates except first-year associates, and 2) first-year associates don’t have time to watch shitty television. Even if they did, they’d only scoff at “The Deep End” for the many, many things it gets wrong. Chief among those is that, right now, first-year associates at large corporate law firms don’t put in 16-to-20-hour days working on very important cases. Right about now, at least half of those first-year associates are busy trying to look busy so as to avoid being fired because there’s no work to be done. It’s an art, I understand. Moreover, there’s this: First-year associates at large corporate law firms don’t go to court during their first week of employment or even fucking talk to clients. Hell, most don’t do so in the first few years. They don’t take cases; first-year associates sit in front of computers, pore over legal research, and draft memos. But I guess that would make for a lousy drama.
Then again, it’s hard to imagine a worse one than “The Deep End,” which is little more than a series of cliches, sitcom tropes, and fact-based bullshit cases that have less to do with the law than they do lame contrivances designed to get the first-year associates to fuck the piss out of each other. I’d wager, in fact, that the creator — David Hemingson — doesn’t know jack shit about the practice of law, exemplified best in the pilot episode’s major case, which revolves around a custody dispute between a widower and her mother-in-law, who was also the baby’s surrogate. Note to writers of legal shows: Major corporate law firms don’t do custody disputes, that’s mostly the province of underpaid legal services attorneys and lawyers (often sleazy) who specialize in family law. First-year corporate lawyers do due diligence and document review.
Putting aside the complete lack of verisimilitude doesn’t help “The Deep End,” either. As a nighttime soap — “Grey’s Anatomy” with lawyers, say — it’s about as successful as the Menendez Brothers defense. The characters are shallow, the writing is hackneyed, and everything about the show feels completely artificial, right down to the frequent and inappropriate hip-hop songs scattered throughout to provide bullshit cultural relevancy.
“The Deep End” is about five first-year associates coping with the pressures of the job, where coping equals fucking and pressures equal spending more time complaining about their jobs than actually doing them. Billy Zane plays the boss-man, otherwise known as “The Prince of Darkness,” because he’s Billy Zane and you’ll call him The Prince of Darkness or he’ll put his dick in the butter. Twilight’s Rachel Lefevre plays a paralegal who is sleeping with both one of the first-year associates and the Prince of Darkness, which is supposed to the show’s central conflict during the initial and only six episodes. Meanwhile “Big Love” and “Veronica Mars’” Tina Majorino plays the mousy doormat who stands up for herself in the very first episode, basically rendering her character moot. There’s also a pretty boy, an English pretty boy, and an attractive blonde. By the end of the first episode they all end up sleeping with someone. Seriously, those five lawyers got more crotch tang in one episode than every other first-year associate in America gets in a month.
If “The Deep End” were soft-core porn, it might garner a C- for plot, character, and writing. As it is, it’s a network show, so the good stuff (that is, the physical union of the male and female genitalia accompanied by rhythmic movements) is painfully tame and kind of pointless. It needs to make up its mind, because as a mainstream television program, it merits no better than a D minus.