Posted by: chance47 | 01/21/2010

Swimming Lessons – “The Deep End”

January is quickly coming to a close.  In addition to meaning I have one month less this year to accomplish anything with my life, it also means that midseason replacement shows are beginning to crop up on the networks.  I haven’t managed to get to “Life Unexpected” yet (but am planning on it) and I plan on avoiding “Human Target” as it seems to be an exact clone of “Keen Eddie”, including its star Mark Valley, minus London and also appears to be wasting the enormous talent of Chi McBride.

So this evening, I had to undergo the chore of watching “The Deep End”, ABC’s time filler until “Flash Forward” comes back.  Its the newest vehicle from series creator David Hemingson, who previously worked on “Lie to Me”, “How I Met Your Mother”, and a personal fave “Kitchen Confidential”.   He has a great pedigree, so I am not certain how he got so many things wrong with “The Deep End”.

The show centers around four first year lawyers who get the opportunity to  gopher for a very prestigious law firm that everyone calls Sterling (really???  why not call it Sterling, Silver, and Caliber).  You have your four pretty archetypes.  The sexy do-gooder with a penchant for bumbling (Matt Long), an australian man-slut with a penchant for…well…women, a quirky yet gorgeous girl with a penchant for gulping (Tina Majorino), and a sexy blonde with a penchant for being boring.   And so the clichés of pretty white people with upwardly mobile careers begins.

I suppose you could call it “Grey’s Anatomy” syndrome.  Take a smattering of nubile, quirky, gorgeous neophytes and pit them against their careers, insecurities and future all at the same time.   I am not saying the Grey’s pioneered this formula, but after its success, I have watched countless pilots trying to capture that charm.   The difference here…despite all of Grey’s copious pitfalls…it is still painstakingly crafted.

The episode follows these first years and of course their more mature partner/mentors in the firm as they navigate the pesky moral quandaries of sex and law.  Still with me?  I won’t bore you with the details, but all of the first years finish the episode with the morals teetering on the edge with their social lives.  Thank god they were working on cases that also happened to be personally relevant or how else would they learn important life lessons?  What is that around the corner…its a legal precedent that showed up out of nowhere just in time to allow a hackneyed plot with an estranged mother and harried daughter-in-law vying for custodial rights to be resolved within forty-two minutes.  (It was sad to see two great character actresses Meredith Monroe, of “Dawson’s Creek” fame, and Kate Burton, of “Grey’s Anatomy” fame, saddled with such a sad subplot.  To their credit…they tried…heartily.)

Clancy Brown, Nicole Ari Parker, and (WHY THE FACE????) Billy Zane play the leading partners in the company who all seem to suffer from an utter lack of real world perspective (which begs the question…how did they get their own law firm???).   Their acting is fine, but their dialogue is pathetic.

With all of these lost first years and lost senior partners, how can the show possibly stay on course?   Well thankfully broadway veteran Norbert Leo Butz plays a morally conflicted Junior Partner who can mentor the first years while at the same time playing confidant with the seniors.  To Norbert’s credit…he provided a smidge of energy to the snail’s pace pilot.

Also making an appearance in the pilot was Mechad Brooks (“True Blood”), but he seemed so strangely shoehorned in as an additional first year, brought in to help raise the moral standards of the company (what???), that it screamed “pilot reshoots”.  Hopefully the talented Brooks gets a moment to shine because he had nothing to do in the pilot besides make Tina Majorino’s “Addy” drool on herself.

Speaking of Tina Majorino, she is the only person to come out of the pilot even slightly positively.   Her quirky yet smart first year at least brought a few genuine chuckles when discussing that she is still figuring out makeup.  Blonde Lawyer (Leah Pipes) and man-slut Australian (Ben Lawson) do not seem without talent but their characters are so broad they have little chance to shine.   Leah’s Beth has a horribly written scene with her booze swilling father, that would make WASPS everywhere turn off their HD TV’s.   Ben Lawson does his best with a borderline ludicrous subplot about pretending to be Jewish for a potential client.

Centering the show is  Dylan Hewitt, played by Matt Long.  I’m happy to see Mr. Long back on television (miss you “Jack & Bobby”) but his character and performance were so generic the only thing he managed to accomplish in the pilot is looking extremely nice being shirtless while having great nipples.

Of all of the script’s pitfalls and clichés (line of dialogue:  “the man doesn’t choose the moment, the moment choses the man” >gag<  >vom<) the worst ultimately is titular in nature.  Towards the end of the pilot a young Dylan Hewitt is thrown into a rooftop pool surrounded by hard-partying socialites.   His fellow first year and junior mentor pull him out of the pool and say,  “We just threw you in the deep end.”   I haven’t retched that hard at a self-reverential title mention since my close personal friend Sandy Bullock had to choke out the title of her movie “Hope Floats” in the last two minutes before the credits.  Also…I have no affection for a pilot that takes me for a moron.

Ultimately, what disappoints me the most is that this was the pilot.   This is supposed to be the platform that excites the viewer and entices them in.  That convinces them that further episodes will not only be enjoyed but is necessary.  For a show called “The Deep End” I was expecting flawed yet funny characters willing to launch themselves into the great unknown in hopes of sussing the waters of adulthood.   This show stands at the edge of the pool, content in coasting on cliché and blowing up its floatees.

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