By all means enjoy "Bar Girls" on CBS tonight. Just don't enjoy it too much. It's the pilot for a series that the network decided not to pick up. The story lines left dangling at the end of the hour will dangle unto eternity.
Originally, it ended with the words "to be continued" on the screen. But "Bar Girls" is never to be continued.
Ironically, perhaps, the film airs opposite NBC's "L.A. Law" (at 10 on Channel 9); it was written and produced by Terry Louise Fisher, who created "Law" with Steven Bochco, then left the series when the two of them failed to get along.
"Bar Girls" is about a law firm too, albeit one that totters, wobbles and then collapses as the hour ticks on. Eventually, there are just two partners left: two women who loathe each other.
The contrasts and conflicts are fairly pat -- a brash, idealistic upstart who drives a Jeep and snaps, "I'm a lawyer, not a businesswoman"; and a temperate, compromising veteran who drives a BMW. Marcy Walker, escaping the confines of NBC's soap opera "Santa Barbara," plays Melanie, the feisty maverick, and Joanna Cassidy, perhaps best remembered as one tough cookie on "Buffalo Bill," is Claudia, Ms. Moderation.
It's reverse casting in a way, since each seems temperamentally suited to the other's part. But these are both good, inventive actresses, and they make it work.
Fisher overdid the deck-stacking against them, however. Not only does the law firm implode, leaving the women stranded and potentially futureless, but Claudia's husband decides to pack up and leave the same week. "We can't go on pretending like this," he says, with an appalling lack of originality.
Meanwhile, Melanie has taken the case of a distraught mother trying to protect her little girl from the father who previously molested her. A snarlingly sexist judge doesn't help matters, and the fireworks between him and Melanie are gripping.
It does begin to seem, as "Bar Girls" progresses, that it's an exercise in man-hating. When the two women decide they'll have to lease space in their suite of offices in order to make ends meet, who shows up to rent a room but a sleaze with a stable of prostitutes. On this show, men are either wimps or pimps.
Or pederasts. When the husband's lawyer complains that Melanie has slandered his client, she snaps, "I couldn't slander that bastard if I had all day and a full bladder." Whew!
Maybe the show's man-bashing (justified or not) is one reason the male-dominated programming hierarchy at CBS passed on it. They're a notoriously short-sighted bunch too -- real Misters Magoo.
Whatever the drawbacks, "Bar Girls" still looks like it could have developed into something exceptional. There certainly have been thousands and thousands of less entertaining hours in the history of prime time.
Many of them on CBS.