The Law Firm, the first reality show produced by David E. Kelley, is so similar to The Apprentice that it could almost be considered an homage or a rip-off, depending on how you feel about that kind of thing. It's about trial-lawyering instead of managing a business, but the similarities are telling: a prominent figure in his field (trial attorney Roy Black, in the Trump role) divides the contestants into teams, gives them minimal time to prepare a case, pits them against each other in front of experienced judges (literally, in this case) to fight it out on camera, and sends poor schlub home after a tense boardroom scene. There are plenty of dazzling helicopter shots of the city (Los Angeles, not New York) during the transitions between scenes - and, of course, lots of feuding and fighting among the contestants. NBC has even given the program the Apprentice time slot, Thursdays at 9, for the next few weeks.
So it's not hard to see what Kelley was aiming for with The Law Firm, in which the contestants try cases in front of retired judges and lawyers. The big surprise is that the show works so well.
Black isn't as charismatic or egomaniacal as Donald Trump (I really wish he had a couple of gruff "viceroys", like Carolyn and George, in the boardroom with him), and he looked a little shaky addressing the contestants at the start of the program - but by the time the boardroom scene came around, he startled some of the victorious contestants by pointing out the errors they made during their cases. One of my favorite things about The Law Firm is that you can be fired (catchphrase: "the verdict is in...you're out" - which is no "get the hell out of my office", I'm afraid) even if you're on a winning team, which was indeed the case with the two contestants dismissed last night. There's nothing more aggravating on The Apprentice than seeing the incompetent and lazy slide through on the backs of their teammates, and on The Law Firm no one is safe.