TV Preview

ABC's new drama 'The Deep End' is a lawyer show that just isn't that deep

'The Deep End': Five law school grads, including Matt Long and Leah Pipes, mix lawyering with sex in this new ABC drama.
'The Deep End': Five law school grads, including Matt Long and Leah Pipes, mix lawyering with sex in this new ABC drama. (Greg Gayne/abc)
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By Hank Stuever
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 21, 2010

Oh, good gravy, more lawyers. Haven't they heard? There's no jobs out of law school anymore!

Nevertheless, here's "The Deep End," a midseason drama from ABC premiering Thursday night before "Grey's Anatomy" and "Private Practice" and resembling them closely enough to warrant a paternity test. Buffed up with glossy polish and thoroughly lacking in sparks between characters, the only good news about this show is that it appears to have a script and actors and sets, which means it's not a reality show or "The Jay Leno Show."

It's not much of a surreality show, either. Four (wait, no, five) freshly degreed lovelies are hired as junior associates at the big Los Angeles law firm of Sterling, Snooze and Snorin. (Well, it's called something like that. There is a Sterling in the firm's name, and Hart Sterling is played by Clancy Brown: "My father built this firm, dammit," he growls.)

The associates all seem cast from the prettiest head shots. They are Blondie (Leah Pipes as Beth), who was top of her class and comes from a long line of cruelty and juris doctorates; Mr. Horndog (Ben Lawson as Liam), who has an Aussie accent and an uncircumcised penis (it's relevant to the plot!); Velma-But-Cuter (Tina Majorino as Addy, too talented for this kind of show); and Puppy Eyes (Matt Long as Dylan), the one we're really supposed to root for and don't, because who cares whether some kid out of law school can cut it in that world?

(And just when I wrote "all white?" in my notebook, Sterling himself trots a new associate through the office, a black guy named Malcolm, played by Mehcad Brooks -- Eggs from "True Blood" -- whose screen time is limited to a few seconds.)

"The Deep End" is built around the 24-7 pressure to survive the first year of high-powered lawyering. "Are you married?" Velma-But-Cuter asks Puppy Eyes on his first awkward day, and he demurs, but she doesn't mean married to a person, silly. She means "married to a matter," which is firm-speak for being assigned a case. All they do around here is work on predictable TV-style legal cases, and then complain, and then copulate: The cross-sexaminations, the deposexions! (I obsex, your honor! Obsexion overruled!)

Puppy Eyes is lost and frightened. Then he's assigned a pro bono custody case and wouldn't you know it? The outcome could jeopardize the firm's relationships with its biggest clients! Actual thespian Norbert Leo Butz plays Rowdy Kaiser, the Arnie Becker-from-"L.A. Law" analogue who acts as a sort of taunting guide to the new recruits.

"I'm your secret mentor," Rowdy tells Puppy Eyes. "I support you secretly, with my mind."

Puppy Eyes is ordered to reach a quick settlement in the custody matter by one of the firm's other partners, Cliff Huddle (known at the firm as "the Prince of Darkness"). He is played by Billy Zane, who has apparently been told to chew as much scenery as he possibly can. The Prince of Darkness is married to the other senior partner (Nicole Ari Parker), but he's cheating on her -- with someone in the office. We shan't reveal who it is, because it's quite possible that "The Deep End" will lure in some people who just want a break from thinking, and they'll want to be surprised.

I can't recommend that anyone watch "The Deep End."

But you could watch it secretly, without your mind.

The Deep End

(one hour) premieres Thursday at 8 p.m. on ABC.

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