'Deep End' is stale legal drama in 'Grey's Anatomy' vein


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When it comes to broadcast network television, it's often true that there's nothing new under the sun. Case in point, ABC's "The Deep End" (8 tonight, WTAE). But that doesn't mean this legal drama is terrible, just overly familiar.

Essentially a "Grey's Anatomy" set inside a well-heeled law firm, "The Deep End" trods the same well-worn path of past legal dramas about new attorneys, most notably failures like 2001's short-lived "First Years" on NBC.

Then again, there were a ton of failed medical shows before "Grey's" broke out into a hit, even though its pilot episode didn't offer much that was new. Like "Grey's," in "The Deep End" the focus is on the young, newbie lawyers forced to sink or swim in the deep end of the legal pool. They're an assortment of types from Ye Olde Stock Character Repository.

Boy Scout Dylan (Matt Long, "Sydney White"), nervy go-getter Beth (Leah Pipes, "Sorority Row"), incorrigible womanizer Liam (Ben Lawson, "Neighbours") and mousy, tentative Addy (Tina Majorino, "Veronica Mars") make up the class of first-year associates at the law firm of Sterling, Something, Something, Something.

If the first years are archetypes, the adults in charge are drawn in even greater extremes in tonight's pilot written by series creator David Hemingson ("Lie to Me," "Kitchen Confidential"). They include The Prince of Darkness, AKA Cliff (Billy Zane); his wife, Susan (Nicole Ari Parker), who thinks Cliff is having an affair; recruiting partner Rowdy (Norbert Leo Butz), who makes promises he can't deliver; and recently returned firm founder Hart Sterling (Clancy Brown), who fights with Cliff for control of the firm and its soul. (Hart wants the firm to do good, including pro bono work; Cliff just wants to make money.)

The cast is quite strong, not only veterans like Brown but also some of the young'uns, most notably Long, from The WB's "Jack & Bobby," and Majorino, who has a recurring role as a budding lesbian Mormon on HBO's "Big Love."

Viewers who don't mind their TV show characters broad and obvious could do a lot worse than "The Deep End." Even those looking for more nuance in their TV shows may be surprised to learn who is bedding whom by the end of tonight's premiere. The pilot offers a deft introduction to the characters and their situations. It's just unfortunate that more care wasn't taken to create a show that feels fresh -- "The Deep End" is rather moldy.

Contact TV editor Rob Owen at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1112. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. First Published January 21, 2010 5:00 AM


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