The CW is on the cusp of programming change.
As part of its deal with new owners Nexstar, the network is aiming to introduce broader fare in the form of sitcoms, syndicated series, procedurals, and dramas that appeal to the network’s older skewing demo. And although it’s still too early to predict the effects of these sweeping changes, the upcoming not-exactly-new fall drama Family Law certainly fits the network’s intended new mold. (Note: the show has already aired its first 10-episode season in Canada.)
Starring Firefly and The L.A. Complex’s Jewel Staite, and Alias’ Victor Garber, this breezy new dramedy centers on top notch lawyer and recovering alcoholic Abigail (Staite). Abigail is thrown a rope by her estranged father after she earns infamy via a drunken viral video that threatens to end her career. Dad Harry (Garber) runs the successful family law firm Svensson and Associates where Abagail is now forced to see out her probation in a humiliating junior position, and under the careful mentorship of a senior lawyer, all while attempting to get her life back on track.
At rock bottom, and separated from her husband and children, it seems Abigail can’t possibly fall any further from grace. Enter half-siblings Daniel (Zach Smadu), and Lucy (Genelle Williams), the seemingly well adjusted children from dad’s other marriages — or “rainbow coloured siblings” as Abigail’s mother (played with obvious relish by Lauren Holly), acidly refers to them. With Daddy’s girl and her high achieving brother beaming happy smiles from family photos all over the office, Abigail navigates choppy emotional waters when she finds herself working alongside, and occasionally for, her newfound siblings.
However it’s in the work that the dysfunctional Svensson family, and the show itself, finds meaning. The procedural format sees the Svennsons taking on a new case each week that mirrors each of the protagonists’ own insecurities. Parenthood, responsibility, family bonds — each episode is an opportunity for Abigail to learn and grow, and maybe even to realize that her new family might need her too.
Family Law is, overall, a comforting feel-good affair that stands on the shoulders of shows like Josh Berman’s Drop Dead Diva before it. Each week sees a new and unlikely client waiting in the office for some badly needed legal assistance that will challenge the team at Svennson and Associates to dig deeper than your average law firm. Pro bono cases are rife. (Harry is not happy about that!) Heartstrings are pulled. Revelations gradually take center stage. Previously held misconceptions are dragged into the light, and we find ourselves nodding and smiling at the TV screen.
Staite is more than capable in her role as the smart and snarky lawyer at the center of proceedings, and Garber is delightful as the self centered and out of touch Harry, who seems to spend most of his time exercising pantless on his office treadmill. Ditto Abigail’s free-wheeling (and possibly also alcoholic?) mother, who is used sparingly and to effect.
And while Abigail may have much to learn and re learn, she is far from a one note character. In one scene she learns that Svensson and Associates are rebranding with softer more family-friendly advertising. As part of their campaign they organise a family office photo to be taken. When Abigail discovers she has been excluded (that viral video still haunts the internet and it’s bad for business!) she passes off the moment with a shrug and a trademark caustic remark about never having been in any of her father’s previous family photos, so “Why start now?” However as she walks away we catch a glimpse of a telling chin tremble.
It’s clear that Abigail has as much to to teach her father and siblings as she has to learn from them.
Family Law premieres on October 2 (8:00-9:00pm ET/PT) on the CW.
The series is created, written and executive produced by Susin Nielsen, with Jordy Randall, Tom Cox, Erin Haskett and Andy Mikita serving as executive producers.