Don’t alienate your built-in audience
I love a good legal drama/dramedy. It’s like summer-time reading for me. Mindless. Entertaining. Unrealistic to a point. But, come on, I’m not watching them to be challenged and to think, but to be entertained.
But when the show asks us to completely suspend belief in the legal system itself, I get annoyed and I turn it off.
Considering the millions of people who work directly in the legal industry (lawyers, paralegals, judges, secretaries, accounting, IT, HR, service center, and marketing professionals) or support the legal industry (technology companies, head hunters, sales people, document processors, legal processors, copy services, consultants, web designers, etc), you’d think they’d make the shows just a little, teensy bit realistic these days.
I’m not saying that short-short skirts, co-ed bathrooms and dancing babies are realistic, but the legal principles of Ally McBeal were (for the most part).
What I appreciated and enjoyed about these shows was that they give us a glimpse into the alternative, fun version of our daily lives.
Some of the cases on these shows were way out there in la-la land, but the lawyers, for the most part, acted within the confines of the legal ethics and bar rules to be believed. And, when they didn’t, we could suspend our beliefs long enough to make it through the episode entertained.
Franklin and Bash run around each episode touting how they are breaking the rules of legal ethics and that they don’t care. People, including a partner in the firm, are also running around threatening to report them to the State Bar Association. I just want to scream at the TV, “Do it, already!”
Suits expects us to believe that a a major US law firm would hire an “attorney” without a law degree, let alone a college degree. I want to see what THAT guy’s profile looks like on the firm’s website. And we’re worrying about inadvertently creating an attorney-client privilege via the comments sections in blogs.
I tried watching these shows. Really I did, but I just can’t do it. I can’t sit through a whole episode. I just can’t suspend that much of my knowledge to be entertained by these “legal” shows.
Sure, I can accept the unisex bathroom, associates with incredibly large offices with INCREDIBLE views, and the law firm that is only filled with hot (and incredibly smart) attorneys who seem to have personal lives AND time to go to the gym, but I can’t suspend my beliefs that deep down lawyers abide by the legal ethics of the profession. That they will not speak ex parte with a judge; illegally research and contact jurors; or knowingly hire, pass off as an attorney, and allow to bill on client cases, a person who has not passed the state bar exam.
I’m not asking for a “realistic” portrayal of law firm life. Come on. For the most part, it’s just like any other job. Deadlines. Long hours. Crappy coffee (just kidding, the coffee in my office is pretty good). Depositions might be exciting and lead to cat fights on TV, but when I pass by the fishbowl conference room it looks like some people are having a hard time staying awake.
When it comes to watching a legal show on TV, I just don’t want to have to call ((cough cough)) “bullshit” ((cough cough) throughout the show, or keep pausing it to explain to my kid that, no, you can’t encourage your client to disrobe in court because you want to prove her bosom is a distraction.
Sigh. Where is David E. Kelley when you need him?