On TV: The Deep End
Sometimes I wonder what I would do if I was forced to write a network law drama. I'm serious. We'll always have them, even though The Practice, Law and Order, and now The Good Wife alone have covered what I suspect is 90% of possible plot complications. Add in Ally McBeal, a comedy, and there goes another significant fraction. Questions about the genre's durability remain salient, but ABC's new midseason replacement The Deep End doesn't seem to notice that it's cross-examining a mode of drama with little left to divulge.
The Deep End is about new lawyers who spend more time coping with burgeoning adulthood than their clients. Dylan Hewitt (Matt Long) is our gray-suited everyman who shows up to his first day of work 10 days late, thanks to a typographical error in a letter from his unamused boss (Billy Zane), who barely acknowledges the slip-up and chooses to believe Dylan is at fault. Of course. That's partly why he's known as "The Prince of Darkness," the other lawyers claim. Because he's incompetent and doesn't apologize for his elementary errors, you ask? No, because he doesn't smile and is lawyerly. We'll grow to understand sometime, I'm sure.
The Deep End's few moments of discernible personality all concern what made Grey's Anatomy a coup for the medical genre in 2006: attractiveness and ignorance. It took hotties Dr. Alex Karev (Justin Chambers) and Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl) to propel viewers into sticking with Grey's flat drama, and it's going to take The Deep End's unanimously symmetrical attorneys to make this show worthwhile.
In the pilot episode we witness a boring maternity case, a new attorney named Addy (Tina Majorino) who has to stand up to her disapproving superior (Nicole Ari Parker), and a virtuous hotshot named Liam Priory (Ben Lawson), who begins fending off a horny new client before she reaches in his pants and says something about "working hard." Jobs are never like this, and no one at home actually cares to watch real lawyers work, but this amount of regurgitated soap action requires blind faith in the home audience's knowledge of the genre. For now, it's a stretch. But that also doesn't matter.
Thing is, Grey's Anatomy added nothing but a magnetic cast to its genre, and The Deep End is poised to contribute the same. Zane is stawart and unpretentious in his utterly pretentious role, and Majorino's flitting, ho-hum presence as the staff ingenue is actually engrossing. The writing, contrived as it is, hardly matters when this law firm teems with possibilities for saucy character development. Sure, Dylan, our wide-eyed protagonist, could be described in one Central Casting blurb, but Matt Long is little less definable. He's like Melrose Place's Michael Rady, imbuing comic chops and timing into what seems initially to be a stock role with one note: naivete. We have those characters' complications to anticipate, even if the arc of the law drama here seems as old as Dragnet.