Judge Cynthia Boris thinks female TV lawyers should always be more than sum of their parts.
"Any lawyer that dodges a sound bite ought to be disbarred."—Elizabeth Canterbury
Canterbury's Law was a mid-season replacement on Fox that fell victim to the writer's strike (so they say), a time slot move and, more likely, a lead character no one could get behind. Only six episodes of the series were made and all were aired on Fox in the spring of 2008. With no chance of this short-lived series ever hitting syndication, this will be your only change to watch it. That's another reason I love DVD's—it's Canterbury's Law: The Complete Series.
Facts of the Case
Look up the word "feisty" in the dictionary and you'll find the name Elizabeth Canterbury (Julianna Margulies, ER). Canterbury is a defense attorney who believes in winning at all costs. She's assisted by her partner, former DA Russell Krauss (Ben Shenkman, Grey's Anatomy), rich kid trying to make it on his own Chester Grant (Keith Robinson, Dreamgirls), and newly appointed lawyer Molly McConnell (Trieste Kelly Dunn, United 93).
Out to shut Canterbury down is Deputy Attorney General Zach Willliams (Terry Kinney, OZ), and I imagine he's not alone in this given the way she treats many people throughout the series.
On the personal side, Elizabeth is haunted by the disappearance of her toddler son who vanished from a playground while she was busy talking on the phone. Her inability to cope drives her further into her work and further away from her husband, law professor Matt (Aidan Quinn, Wild Child). It doesn't, however, stop her from having an affair with private detective Frank Angstrom (James McCaffrey, Rescue Me).
The episodes revolve almost equally around the case of the week and Elizabeth's personal problems, which grow to the size of a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon over the course of only six weeks. Skim through the plots of the six episodes listed below and you'll get a good feel for why this show didn't work.
Most TV shows try hard to get you to like the lead character despite their many faults. But this show seems to go out of its way to get you to dislike Elizabeth Canterbury and, though that might be novel, I doubt it did the series any favors.
When we first meet Elizabeth, she is in the arms of a lover who, we come to find, is not her husband and IS her client. She informs him that the affair is over (as they sit together behind the defense table at his trial) but he's a recurring character in the show so obviously over doesn't mean over.
The pilot episode revolves around the case of Ethan Foster, and unlike most legal shows, the repercussions from this case drag on for the rest of the series. I won't tell you why (in case you decide to watch the show) but suffice to say, Elizabeth's 'win at all costs' attitude catches up to her but quick. Again, we're supposed to feel sorry for her, but it's tough to do because where many viewers might forgive her abrasive nature in the face of getting justice for all, it's hard to get behind a lawyer who defends the guilty. I'm not just talking about maybe they did it and maybe they didn't. Several of Canterbury's clients are clearly guilty, but she uses loopholes in the law to get them off. Last I looked, that was the behavior of a series villain, not the hero. You can call me naïve, call me old fashioned, but I prefer a little white in my shades of gray.
The only sympathy I feel for Elizabeth is because she's a woman who has lost her son. The backstory about Sam being taken from the playground is heartbreaking. I'm sure the creators planned to have the kidnapper resurface, or perhaps show indications that the child was still alive in order to up the ante, but we'll never know. There's no additional information and no closure for this storyline and in some ways, that's the most aggravating thing about this DVD set.
Actually, there is one thing that is more aggravating, and that's the opening credits, which were obviously designed by a man. The opening montage features more shots of Margulies' rear-end and legs then it does of her face. We see her pulling down the hem of her jacket over her butt, we see her running across the sidewalk in spiky high heels, we see body parts and then we're supposed to take this woman seriously as a lawyer. More and more I gotta wonder who the intended audience was for this series.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
As much as I was annoyed by hard edge of this series, I did watch all of the episodes and it wasn't much of a hardship. Given that there are only six episodes, maybe that's not saying much, but the series does have some good points.
I did enjoy the production styling—the look, the pace, the interesting music added here and there. I also liked the supporting cast, particularly Canterbury's straight arrow partner, Russell. Now there's a character I really felt for, poor guy had his hands full with all of her antics.
For fans of legal dramas, you have to give Canterbury's Law points for being different. Sure I've seen the good guys on Law and Order bend the law in order to put a killer behind bars, but I've never seen a good guy work so hard to put the bad guys back on the street.
This court finds Canterbury's Law: The Complete Series very, very guilty and orders mandatory sensitivity training for everyone involved.
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