Adam, less experienced in the courtroom, overcompensates by going over the top in his defense of Damien's shooting trial.  Apparently he's watched too many David E. Kelly courtroom shows, and begins acting out, shouting at the judge that his client's guilt is mitigated because his client "cares about the poor" so much that he shot someone threatening to rob one of his clients.  

The second episode follows the same pattern, both lawyers taking hopeless cases and winning them against smug, arrogant and/or cynical legal opponents.  The dialogue is clever in a showy, rather than smart way.  The colorful clients may be guilty of the actual crime they are charged with but the firm argues that circumstances, poverty, Rush Limbaugh and other rightwing nemeses are the real issue rather than criminal behavior and thus win their cases or at least have their arguments vindicated.

Because legal shows need lawyers, a much despised profession, to be sympathetic heroes, the only really good thing about the show is Kathy Bates, who demonstrates that bad writing cannot prevent her from giving compelling performances.  She's in control of every scene she's in and makes the manipulative dialogue credible—almost.  Nathan Corddrey as the preppy young Adam has the more comedic role as a quirky, seemingly lightweight counselor who takes cases impulsively and then has to win them.

There's an anachronistic feel to the show's premise, like it was pulled from a stack of rejected scripts from 1981 that depict the only hope for various ethnic types is the arrival of two affluent white people to strive for the justice available nowhere else, while offering some really cute womens' shoes too.  By now, Kelly's legal wackiness shtick seems old.

Harry's Law is sort of a wish-fulfillment fantasy for liberals, a way of arguing not about the real law but what Kelly thinks a progressive society ought to be.  But such a quirky legal farce, replete with precious dialogue, deserving clients and underdog lawyers creates its own problem—if everything about the show seems so unreal, do the progressive solution Kelly's scripts invokes also seem just as fanciful? 

The new series would be far more compelling if it's heroes, instead of serving as mouthpieces for Kelly, were allowed to be more complex and sometimes wrong in their taking the case of truly criminal clients. Yes, it's in the nature of legal dramas for its protagonists to be the heroes against whatever adversary confronts them, but allowing some true complexity into a plot would allow the audience to examine the controversial issues Kelly so glibly exploits and decide for themselves what to believe instead of listening to conveniently contrived propaganda.

*Alex Wainer, Ph.D. teaches media and film at Palm Beach Atlantic University. He is a regular contributor to theFish.com. 

**Watch Harry's Law on NBC, Monday, 10pm EST 

***This Review First Published Jan. 31, 2011