TV Review: Harry's Law

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What did Kathy Bates ever do to David E. Kelley? She must have annoyed him in some way, becauseHarry's Law, Kelley's new NBC lawyer dramedy starring Bates, feels like retribution.

Actually, it feels as if Bates has her own writer for her character, a burnt out patent lawyer named Harriet (or Harry, to her friends), who starts over in an abandoned shoe store with her assistant (Brittany Snow) and slick lawyer Adam Branch (Nathan Corddry), who once went up against Harry in court. Or maybe that's just what talent is: elevating you above the painful and forced situations you're acting against.

There's something smugly patronizing in Kelley's version of Cincinnati and the young black men who live near Harry's new office. Her first client is facing jail time on his third arrest for cocaine possession; her second client first tries to threaten her into buying protection, then hires her firm to represent him after shooting a robber in self-defense with an unregistered gun. Guess what? He has a gooey heart of gold about a foot beneath his sideways baseball cap. "I've had a lot of lawyers," he tells Adam. "But none of them have ever fought for me the way you just did." Or words to that effect. I couldn't really hear over the heavy sigh that dialogue elicited from me.

Toss in an opposing lawyer who repeats everything he says, everything he says, and the fact that the abandoned shoe store is still filled with Prada and Jimmy Choos-which Snow's enterprising character starts selling, in between keeping track of Harry's court appearances-and you have the makings of a gritted-teeth hour of classic Kelley TV. Quirkiness is fine when accompanied by interesting writing and intriguing characters, butHarry's Lawlacks both. What it does have is Kathy Bates, who will no doubt serve out her sentence with aplomb. But I can't wait until she's sprung from the tangled web Kelley weaves.

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