“Harry’s Law”, which debuted Monday on NBC, is typical David E. Kelley — quirky characters, topical cases, long and passionate courtroom speeches. That formula worked well with “The Practice” and “Boston Legal,” but can it succeed again in today’s more sophisticated TV universe?
“Harry’s Law’s” best asset — and, honestly, the only reason to watch — is the wonderful Kathy Bates, who plays Harriett “Harry” Korn, a fired Cincinnati patent lawyer who starts a criminal practice in an abandoned shoe store in a rundown neighborhood (which, unfortunately can’t hide that it’s just a soundstage.)
Kelley originally wrote the curmudgeonly role for a man, but couldn’t find an actor able to play it. So he switched genders and lucked into Bates, who fell for the character. Harry is grumpy, disillusioned and confused (“Maybe there is a better world somewhere – one without people.”) Bates may be the only person who can make the audience like a dark, complex lead — and every series needs to have its audience like its star. It’s refreshing to have an old, frumpy heroine as well.
The supporting cast includes Brittany Snow (“American Dreams”) as Harry’s perky assistant who sells the shoes left behind in her spare time, and Nat Corddry (“Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip”) as her enthusiastic junior associate.
A few top critics, including The Hollywood Reporter’s superb Tim Goodman, have lambasted “Harry’s Law.” Too much quirk and silliness. Kelley, in an interview with TV Squad said, “I alienate probably just as many people as I attract with some of my nonsense.” That’s Kelley. He writes the way he does because it’s fun, and he’s not going to change. He’s had more hits than misses.
NBC is taking a shot — as it did with J.J. Abrams and “Undercovers” — and hopes this one hits the target.