Between 1963 and 1965 there was a woman’s sexy voice declaring on television “It’s Burke’s law–h”. Burke’s Law featured Gene Barry (from the 1953 War Of The Worlds) as Amos Burke, an imaginative but not very realistic rich police captain solving crime in a Rolls Royce. Enter the highly compelling Kathy Bates forty-eight years later in David E. Kelley’s return to The Practice/Boston Legal place he’s so familiar with and a show that bears a similar title: Harry’s Law.
Kathy Bates as lawyer Harriet Korn – participating in a comedy/drama a la Boston Legal – is a brilliant casting move. Now Kelley is free to push the boundaries again because superstar Bates can overshadow the excesses. This mixing of humor and drama is risky business and, as seen with the recent Green Hornet film (debuting appropriately enough on the weekend before Harry’s Law’s first voyage), it doesn’t necessarily work. It is, as stated above, the acting of Bates which saves the day and the serious courtroom moments rise above the forced humor.
The opening of a suicide breaking his fall on an awning and then Bates, followed by a foe lawyer nearly running her down with his fancy car, just too coincidental for comfort, though the show builds nicely and quickly and all is forgiven. The bizarre addition of a shoe shop to the law firm works in a weird sort of way and the action is fast-paced, as we’ve come to expect from producer Kelley. What is deeply moving is that the topics are as hard-hitting and emotional, as we experienced with The Practice and with Boston Legal, so the viewer gets a great actress, some meaty story lines and quack humor all rolled into one. As Meatloaf sang, “two out of three ain’t bad”, and the show emerges as a keeper.
Nate Corddry replaced the excellent British actor Ben Chaplin who must’ve been busy with his The Picture of Dorian Gray or London Boulevard. It’s too bad because Corddry is still a bit wet behind the ears, some roles on Law & Order: Criminal Intent as well as The Pacific and 30 Rock and, well, a newcomer is not as pricey as a major film star so the math must work out when the show is a mid-season replacement series. All in all this program’s maiden voyage, aptly entitled “Pilot”, was a nice way to follow the second week for another good episode of The Cape (3 shows in two weeks). Mistress Bates gets to grace our tv screens with her terrific thespian skills and wry humor and that is viewing worth looking forward to.
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He was a film critic for Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com and produces and hosts Visual Radio. Visual Radio is a fifteen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed John Lennon’s Uncle Charlie, Margaret Cho, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere, Marty Balin, Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.