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The Deep End: ABC’s Vision of a First Year Associate’s Life


Last night ABC aired its new legal drama, The Deep End. I could argue that The Deep End demonstrates that screenwriting as a serious craft is dead, but if you’ve watched any three-letter network lately (other than HBO), you know that already.

Every decade or so, someone in TV land who narrowly escaped a career in law decides the world would be fascinated by watching the lives of lawyers. In a better world, we would cast stones at such people and leave their utterly implausible and trumped up shows unwatched. In our world, LA Law was a Thursday night staple for nearly a decade in the late 80’s and Ally McBeal helped establish Fox as a serious network in the late 90’s.

And they didn’t just invade our minds for an hour each week. Instead, they sent generations of young people to law school in droves. Naïve men simply assumed they too would become promiscuous, sports car-driving divorce attorneys like Arnie Becker and equally naïve women fully expected that, like Ally, they too could weigh 90 pounds, drink every evening away at the bar downstairs wearing provocative skirt-suits, and once in a while pretend to do some legal work (all the while being oddly disconsolate).

Again, better people would have stoned the producers who dreamed up these shows, as all too often we have interpreted their shows as career advice.

Hot off their success in luring people to medical school with Grey’s Anatomy (apparently “Grey’s” for aficionados), ABC is hoping The Deep End will do the same for law. The truth is, it’s not the worst show on television (primarily because Everybody Loves Raymond is still on) but it doesn’t yet have the allure of LA Law or Ally.

It focuses on the law firm of Sterling, someone, someone, and someone, but more specifically on four “brilliant” first-year associates making their initial foray into the legal profession. In the background linger the firm’s partners who, as they torture associates, fight over whether the firm should make money or help people. Really.

The Cast

It’s difficult to tell the associates apart because they’re essentially they same; budding optimists who, on the first day of their careers keep reminding people that they’re “damn good attorneys.” But there are some superficial things we can go on.

Addy Fisher is the somewhat homely (there I said it) ingénue from Case Western who gets arrested in the first episode for breaking through a security checkpoint in order to file papers with the court (because it happens). She reminds people how “brilliant” they all are as she steals cupcakes off other’s desks.

Dylan Hewitt, her male equivalent, attended Columbia Law School before he joined the firm. In the first episode, Dylan sits down with a judge ex parte in chambers and convinces him to reverse his custody ruling for a hot client and later has sympathy sex with the firm’s paralegal who had just failed the bar. Dylan’s played by actor Matt Long who actually attended Western Kentucky University. Really.

Liam Priory attended Cambridge (where they’re apparently now granting American JD’s?) and his only defining feature is that he has a weakness for hot women (because that’s not true of other men). In the first episode, he cost the firm a wealthy client by having sex with the client’s daughter. But don’t worry; he made it up to everyone by bringing in the business of an Israeli fashion maven by having sex with her as well. We also learn that he had his way with fellow associate, Beth, when they first arrived at the firm and they have sex again at end of the episode, just to let us know he’s for real.

Beth Branford, from Stanford Law School, completes a CEO transition at a major company about a week after being hired (it happens). Beth is seen-as attractive, though her face is nearly as wide as Evander Holyfield’s and she’s terribly bow-legged (there, I’ve said it). Beth has daddy-issues, evinced by her father actually telling her that she is too weak to have worked at his firm (again, cut from the headlines).

So that’s our cast. The Deep End’s most notable feature is that everyone is stunningly more attractive than their real life counterparts, and while this is true of most TV shows, it’s especially the case here. The legal secretaries are hot twenty-somethings, the clients are gorgeous, and even the partners would do in a pinch. Nowhere is there an obese slob who bills his life away.

There are worse ways to waste an hour of your life (e.g. The Mentalist), but it’s crucial to recognize that almost nothing you see on The Deep End is rooted in reality. To assist you, dear reader, in distinguishing the show’s unrealistic moments, I made of list of just a few things.

Fact vs. Fiction:

The hallway around the firm office floor is about 15 feet wide and the ceiling is about 25 feet high.
If you look, the firm is presented as being housed in the Paul Hastings/ City National towers in Los Angeles where the lobbies are barely this large.

Rowdy Kaiser claims that the firm screened 1000 people for 4 spots.
It’s more like 10:1, even at the most selective firms.

We see Dylan combing through books in the law library to look for a way to help a client.
Databases Westlaw and LexisNexis essentially replaced law libraries at least 10 years ago. He’d be searching a database alone, not with an attractive paralegal to bounce ideas off of.

Dylan argues in court less than a week after being hired.
Attorneys almost never go to court at prestigious firms, let alone in their first week.

In order to make up for torturing her, partner Susan Oppenheim takes Addy Fisher for “$100 pizza at Mozza”.
Pizzeria Mozza, sister restaurant to Nancy Silverton & Mario Batali’s Osteria Mozza, serves pizza for $13-22. They’re on the corner of Melrose and Highland, call for reservations.

In the first week, of 4 associates, two have had sex with each other twice (Liam and Beth), one has had sex with a secretary (Liam), and one with a paralegal (Dylan). There’s less sex on Diary of a Call Girl.
Varies by case, but expect a good deal less, especially if you’re not hot.

So that’s it for the premiere. See you next week.

Article by Trent Teti of Blueprint LSAT Preparation