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Another Look at Raising the Bar

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Every week this season that I've turned on Raising the Bar – and that's been all of them – I've wondered why I didn't like the show anywhere near as much last season.  Last year, I watched several episodes of the series and found that it was no more or less than your average legal drama, and that Mark-Paul Gosselaar did just a little too much crying.

Well, he still is tilting at windmills this season (no matter what he said last night), but at least his crying has abated.  But, that doesn't really seem like all that was missing last season, the show was just very by the numbers and I was never terribly interested in any of the characters.

Okay, so I'm not quite sure that I'm interested in them now all that much either, at least not beyond all of them.  The show has a lot of characters running around… a lot of characters.  It's impossible for the series to develop full plots for all of them, and that really shows this year.  Just look at Richard Woolsley (Teddy Sears), he finally got more than 30 seconds of screen time last night, but his plot, which involved him pleading out a case without figuring out what it was about first, felt very familiar.  I don't remember last season well enough to know if they did that exact plot then, but I know that I've seen something Gosselaar phot by Karen Neal similar before (even if it was on a different show).

The big character – Jerry Kellerman (Gosselaar) – is obviously the focus of every episode, but they do seem to have trouble bringing in the other characters regularly.  Certainly this season we've learned very, very little about our prosecutors, save that Michelle Ernhardt (Melissa Sagemiller) is dating a cop who helped kill one of the women Kellerman has defended.  That has to be headed somewhere, I'll be sorely disappointed in the series if it doesn't, but I have the sense that it may not come back for weeks on end.  The show did appear to drop a hint in last night about her dating the cop – she left drinks with everyone saying she had plans – but that was it, nothing specific.   

The one other character who seems to get a little bit added to their story on a regular basis is Bobbi Gilardi (Natalia Cigliuti), Kellerman's would-be love interest.  Her story has been all about her divorce and pushing off Kellerman until that was finalized.  Those papers came through last night, but I'm not going to ruin the episode's final moments for you, suffice to say that next week's episode should prove a good one.

It is despite this lack of ability to give depth to many of the characters' story arcs due to the breadth of characters that the show is working this season.  Frankly, if they're not able to really explore the characters I'd rather that they not give us tiny bits of nonsense which only lead us to believe that the characters are gross stereotype.  Actually, I think the reason the show really works is that the cases this season have been interesting.  The series, while it definitely gives more weight to the public defenders, tends to leave things just a little bit open about right and wrong in a case.  Despite Kellerman's constant bemoaning of the justice system and the injustice it creates, the show is pretty good about showing that things aren't black and white and exploring the push and pull between prosecutors and defense attorneys that make for justice.  It makes the show a good one even if most of the characters aren't yet that three dimensional.  It's also why I'm intrigued this season and going to continue watching.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.