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NBC’s “The Firm” Is On Shaky Ground

English: Josh Lucas at the 2009 Tribeca Film F...

Josh Lucas via Wikipedia


By the law of averages, you might think that NBC would get a new legal drama right.

Think again when it comes to “The Firm,” a laughable update of the John Grisham best seller and subsequent movie that premieres at 9 p.m. Sunday on Channel 2.

I wanted to love it. But despite an excellent cast, “The Firm” is the dumbest legal show since, well, the Jimmy Smits’ NBC disaster, “Outlaw.”

The  cast includes Josh Lucas (“Glory Road,” “J. Edgar”) in the Tom Cruise movie role as defense lawyer Mitch McDeere; Molly Parker (“Deadwood”) as his wife Abby; Callum Keith Rennie as Mitch’s brother, Ray, a private eye with a manslaughter conviction on his resume; and Juliette Lewis (“Cape Fear”) as office help, Tammy Hemphill.

Nothing in the script of the two-hour premiere is on firm ground. The plot is more laughable at times than suspenseful, the resolutions of the legal issues are often preposterous and the conspiracy revealed at the end can’t save it.

Mitch is a liberal lawyer and risk taker in Washington, D.C. who fled his native Memphis after bringing down a big law firm there a decade ago. He joined the Witness Protection Program to make his wife and young daughter safe from the mob. He has left the WPP and is warned by federal authorities that the mob is still looking for him. But Mitch isn’t worried. I mean why would he be worried about the mob?

That may be the least preposterous element of the series. Mitch is always looking to stop and think about what is the best way to do the right thing even if it means risking his legal career and somehow managing to convince an assistant district attorney to join him in this professional suicide mission. His pursuit by a big, ethically-challenged D.C. firm also is a little ridiculous since they are aware of Mitch’s history as a crusader.

To make Mitch more sympathetic, the script gives him a supportive wife who will follow him anywhere and a cute daughter who fears that she will have to go anywhere.

The McDeeres have big money concerns, which may force Mitch to give up his dreams of going it alone legally and be associated with the big law firm. He initially views that as a fate worse than being chased by the mob.

There is a lot going on here, with most of the two-hour pilot being guilty of being wildly ridiculous and nowhere as entertaining as intentionally preposterous legal shows written by David E. Kelley (“Boston Legal,” “Harry’s Law,” “The Practice,” “L.A. Law.”)

That said, “The Firm” does have some exciting chase scenes and some heartfelt moments if you are able to ignore how silly it is. I couldn’t.

Rating: 1 and a half stars  

Speaking of dumb, there’s no other way to describe Channel 4’s negotiation position with anchor-reporter Melissa Holmes before she bolted for Channel 2. Holmes confirmed that Channel 4 didn’t discuss a new deal with her until a few days after she told the station she was leaving for Channel 2.

Holmes was able to learn that Channel 2 might be interested in her a few months before her contract expired so she called the station to find out how interested. Channel 2 offered her a deal in late December, which Channel 4 responded to.

“Channel 4 asked me what it would take for me to stay,” said Holmes. “Channel 4 wanted to keep me but I am eager to start at Channel 2. I went to Channel 2 for greater opportunities and to stay in my hometown and hopefully make an impact and to work for an incredible news team.”

She will miss her colleagues at Channel 4. But you got the sense that Holmes wasn’t happy at the way she was treated at Channel 4 and felt more wanted at Channel 2 than she was at Channel 4.

Channel 4 has been known to delay contract renewal offers until close to or even after contracts expires. With non-compete clauses no longer valid in new broadcasting contracts in New York State, the policy puts Channel 4 at risk of losing talented and valuable staffers like Holmes.

While we’re on dumb subjects, inquiring minds want to know how NBC’s four-night pre-Christmas run of the stupid game show “Who’s Still Standing?” did in Western New York. It averaged a 5.3 on Channel 2 for the four nights, which is decent by NBC standards.

The media website TV Spy reported Thursday that Channel 4 has hired a veteran Traverse City, Mich. anchor to anchor the 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts.

Diana Fairbanks, who has been at two Traverse stations for 11 years, is filling the role that Lisa Flynn used to have before she left Channel 4 more than a year and a half ago. Since then, Lia Lando briefly anchored the two newscasts before declining a Channel 4 contract offer and deciding to take an anchor job in Rochester. After Lando left, Don Postles and Jacquie Walker added the extra newscasts to their duties.



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7 responses to "NBC’s “The Firm” Is On Shaky Ground"

  1. Tina says:

    Well Alan, you were the one who first mentioned the game show “Who’s Still Standing” so if it’s a dumb subject I that I asked about then thank yourself for that…it wasn’t so dumb then now was it?

  2. Mark Scott says:

    I’m just amazed, Alan, that your former employer had a news brief about Diana Fairbanks’ hiring in today’s paper, but made no mention of Marissa Bailey and Melissa Holmes. They must read your blog, don’t they? It’s rather unbelievable! Maybe if Bailey and Holmes worked at WECK, the News would write about it! :-) In any event, to those of your readers who are angry at Channel 4 for not allowing Melissa to say goodbye, that’s the broadcasting business, folks. Channel 2 would have done the same thing. It’s done in radio, too! If you’re leaving for a bigger market or retiring, they’ll allow you a last show and a chance to say goodbye. But if you’re leaving for a competitor, you don’t get that chance. In fact, I was rather surprised that Channel 4 allowed Melissa on the air once her move became public earlier in the week. And I would argue that this is not limited to broadcasting. If you work for a local company making widgets, and you give your notice that you’re going to a competing widget-maker across town, you’re probably going to be allowed to pack up under the sharp eye of a human resources person and escorted out. One can criticize Channel 4 for allowing Melissa to get away in the first place. But you shouldn’t blame them for telling her that yesterday was her last broadcast.

    • alanp says:

      Mark, Nothing about my former employer’s lack of perspective when covering tv and radio amazes me anymore. That’s one of the reasons I do my blog. Yes, many of my former colleagues are regular readers of the blog. Good line about WECK. I thought I was the only one who noticed the paper ran 10 inches about the station for every listener it had. And I agree on the goodbye talk when it comes to people leaving. Well said.

  3. Pergy's friend says:

    I’m surprised 4 hired someone new and didn’t make Joe Arena work an extra hour every day.

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