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This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: What Were You Thinking, Harry’s Law?

February 21, 2011

Harry’s Law piqued interested for two reasons: Kathy Bates. Since its Midseason debut, the show – which does decent, but not earth shattering numbers – continues to return television to the days before Dick Wolf eschewed convention and decided trafficking in wall-to-wall depictions of black criminality had been done to death. This ushered in a golden age where I was free to watch cop shows and legal dramas without scoffing because every suspect was a stereotypical jive talking black inner city thug. Harry’s Law, based on the five episodes I forced myself to watch, carries on a love affair with stereotypically and narrowly depicted black criminality and whiteness as savior the likes of which television audiences haven’t seen since Ally McBeal (also by David E. Kelley).

Besides the Bates factor, parsing out NBC’s attraction to the show – the home of Homicide: Life on the Street and Law & Order – proves difficult. The same NBC audiences who rebuffed NBC’s fall diversity offering Undercovers and Outlaw are embracing Harry’s Law in respectable numbers. What’s more depressing, is the waste of Kathy Bates’ superior talents on dreck that makes Starsky and Hutch‘s exploration of the intersection of race and class seem nuanced. So why do you think audiences are reluctantly embracing this shift in the television landscape? Have you checked out the show?

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. February 21, 2011 5:11 pm

    I haven’t checked it out, and now I guess I…will not be.

    I have a lot of thoughts about why people are licking up troped, stereotyped, nasty depictions of minorities on television right now and many of them seem to boil down to the, well ‘PC backlash,’ with people clinging hard to their entertainment stereotypes because they resent being told that we’re tired of their janky shit, and I feel like a lot of television creators are, alas, catering to that instead of telling people to get stuffed.

  2. evmaroon permalink
    February 21, 2011 5:26 pm

    There’s the race fail, as you mention. There’s the dialogue so wooden I think it’s bordering on petrified. There’s the perfectly pedestrian depiction of jurisprudence at the same time that audiences are tortured with a sappy preachiness that makes Private Practice look like Dr. Zhivago. The whole kit and kaboodle makes me very sad. And pissed.

  3. February 21, 2011 5:34 pm

    I have a lot of thoughts about why people are licking up troped, stereotyped, nasty depictions of minorities on television right now and many of them seem to boil down to the, well ‘PC backlash,’ with people clinging hard to their entertainment stereotypes because they resent being told that we’re tired of their janky shit, and I feel like a lot of television creators are, alas, catering to that instead of telling people to get stuffed.

    I have similar feelings particularly about ‘Shameless’ on Showtime and even some of the recent episodes of normally unoffensive fare. It’s disappointing, but makes perfect sense given the framework you’ve presented.

  4. February 21, 2011 5:35 pm

    There’s the dialogue so wooden I think it’s bordering on petrified. There’s the perfectly pedestrian depiction of jurisprudence at the same time that audiences are tortured with a sappy preachiness that makes Private Practice look like Dr. Zhivago.

    The dialog is the pits. It’s also lopsided. Bates’ character gets all the best lines or maybe she’s just that fab an actor she can make anything sound brilliant. It’s probably a mixture of the two. I am told that Brittany Snow has great comedic chops, I guess she doesn’t bring them to work on the set of Harry’s Law.

  5. February 21, 2011 7:38 pm

    I watched 3 episodes and couldn’t bear the thought of watching the 4th, so I think I’m done. I agree with points made above, but for me it also didn’t help that while I like Christopher McDonald, but I don’t like him dialed up to eleven all the time and playing that annoying character foil. It’s like the took a bad guy from an episode of Leverage and stretched him out into a multi-episode story arc.

  6. February 21, 2011 9:05 pm

    Sounds like another bust year in television. Oh well, I’m holding out for Body of Proof!

  7. Val permalink
    February 21, 2011 11:00 pm

    I don’t get signal….by choice. I can’t call my approach Darwinian, but some kind of selection process must happen before I consider watching new TV critters. If enough people whose opinions I value say “you must watch this”, I will check it out.

    I love Kathy Bates, but this sounds terrible.

    Thanks for the heads-up!

  8. Peter permalink
    February 23, 2011 1:01 pm

    Eh, it’s definitely a lot better than most dreck served up as midseason fare. It wasn’t good enough to make the fall liineup.

  9. Lauren permalink
    February 24, 2011 5:02 am

    Kathy Bates is completely wasted! It makes me so angry. I wnated to like the show so much, but it keeps getting worse with each episode. Glad to see I’m not the only one who feels this way.

  10. Hector permalink
    February 24, 2011 9:31 am

    Harry’s Law is a decent show. Not sure what the issue is. Black people do commit more crimes. Why be so “PC” about it?

  11. February 25, 2011 12:17 pm

    Harry’s Law is a decent show. Not sure what the issue is. Black people do commit more crimes. Why be so “PC” about it?

    LOL!

  12. February 25, 2011 12:19 pm

    Alas, Hector, you are wrong when it comes to crime statistics. As for the question of whether race and class analysis belong in discussions about television shows focusing on the criminal justice system in the US, well…

  13. Springfield Rifle permalink
    February 27, 2011 5:33 pm

    First two shows were good, third was less good,forth truly sucked and the fifth was just unwatchable. Also Kathy was shown setting down in every shot, is she ill again? I have taken the show off my list.

  14. Cedrick Nouri permalink
    March 15, 2011 5:54 pm

    i like your blog.

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