I hate lawyer shows. I used to watch Law and Order when Jerry Orbach was on it, but never liked the law part of the show, especially Sam Waterston’s annoying DA. I don’t like arguing for the sake of it—or I should say, watching others do that. I really don’t like all the little catches and loopholes in the law that could affect someone in a good or bad way, depending who’s writing this week’s script. Which is why Harry’s Law appeals to me. Many are saying its target audience are Golden Girls from Bates’s generation who miss Murder She Wrote. I’m sure the show will appeal to them, but I used to like watching Jessica Fletcher solve her biggest-guest-star-dunits with my grandmother, too. How can you not like Cabot Cove, the murder capital of the world? It was Angela Lansbury, for Pete’s sake.
And that’s exactly why it’s fun watching Harry’s Law—Kathy Bates. She’s having a blast being ornery, saying all the curse words that her time slot will allow (asshole … asshole). And she’s Kathy Bates. It’s refreshing to not see yet another show headed by an unbelievably thin and perky cast. There is the token cast cutie in Brittany Snow, who thankfully also seems to have a sense of humor. Nate Corddry is a great foil and sidekick. The show is supposed to be set in Cincinnati. I’ve never visited Cincinnati, but I’ve lived in New York and D.C. and I’m sure the bad part of town doesn’t look like the block where Harry’s Law and Fine Shoes are located, but who cares; we know it’s a backlot. That’s not the point. It’s a chance to watch Kathy Bates kick some smarmy lawyer butt and get the wind taken out of her sails at the same time, with one client wackier than the next. But like I said, it’s really not about the law, it’s about the personalities.
What this show really reminds me of are two great British shows that I used to watch, Hetty Wainthropp Investigates, starring Patricia Routledge and Kingdom, starring Stephen Fry. Maybe David E. Kelley has been watching BBC America reruns lately. Hetty Wainthropp was ostensibly a detective show, but no one, no matter how guilty, ever went to jail. They may have gotten a stern lecture or a “tut-tut” and an expressive roll of the eyes from Hetty, but that was about the extent of it. So far Bates’s Harry is 2-for-2 getting her criminals off-the-hook, too. Hetty was a fun hour watching Routledge and a very young Dominic Monaghan team up to solve crimes in Northern England. Kingdom starred Fry as a small-town lawyer surrounded by a cast of extremely eccentric but lovable characters, including the wonderful Tony Slattery, Hermione Norris and Celia Imrie.
Harry’s Law is so much more entertaining than the show that precedes it, the hyped but horrible The Cape. I’m so sorry, James Frain. I love you but I don’t know if I can sit though another episode with such heavy-handed music and dialogue like, “Either you wear the cape or the cape wears you.” Yikes. Or, “Every cop cell in my body tells me that guy’s bad news.” Seriously, a killer cape that can behead department store dummies? I just hear The Incredibles‘ Edna Mode’s voice in my head on an endless loop, “No capes!”
Instead of suffering through The Cape again maybe I’ll check out Kingdom on Hulu and Hetty on YouTube as the perfect openers to Harry’s Law. And Kathy Bates and her show can ride on the cape-tails of a comic, but deliver the real comedy.