Friday, September 30, 2022

Family Law (Pilot), on CW

Maybe a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client, but what is he, if he hires his toxic, alcoholic daughter? Abigail Bianchi is actually the third of Harry Svensson’s three grown children (all from different mothers) that he hired at his family law firm. She is not happy to be there, but it is her only option after a drunken vomiting courtroom incident. Even in Canada, the courts frown on such behavior, but each case offers more dramedy-redemption in writer-creator Susin Nielsen’s Family Law, which premieres Sunday on the CW.

In the pilot episode, “Sins of the Father,” Bianchi does not know her entitled half-siblings very well and neither of them is happy to have her join the firm. Before the regurgitation incident, Bianchi was a hot shot litigator, so she feels like family law is beneath her. Only the transgender receptionist is happy to see her.

Currently, Bianchi is separated from her unfaithful husband, who still has custody of the kids, because she is such a dumpster fire. Their little boy always looks forward to her visits, but their teen daughter is openly siding with dad and against her. At least she has the boozy support of her Ab-Fab mother Joanne Kowalski, Svensson’s first wife. Perhaps understandably, some of Bianchi’s baggage comes out during her first case for the firm, involving years of unpaid child support from a father, who answered an online ad for a no-strings-attached sperm donor.

Honestly, most of the legal plotlines of the pilot episode feel like they could have been brainstorming notes discarded from the writers’ room when
L.A. Law was cancelled in the mid-1990s. It is basically the same formula. The pilot gives us one primary case, addressing a mildly controversial issue, while also following a slightly comical secondary case (this time around it is a doggie custody battle).

Family Law
might not be stylistically innovative, but that is no great sin. The problem is the complete and utter lack of characters any sane viewer would want to spend time with. Bianchi is abrasively annoying, Svensson is insufferably arrogant, and the step-siblings combine the worst of both. Even Lauren Holly generates more eye-rolls than laughs as the diva-ish Kowalski.

Admittedly, Victor Farber is well-cast as Svensson, who is indeed a faithful representation of the legal profession. Unfortunately, Jewel Staite makes Bianchi relentlessly unpleasant and Zach Smadu and Genelle Williams are dull as dishwater as her half-sibling-colleagues.

Family Law
is already in its second season in Canada, so maybe these characters grow and evolve over time, but there is little in the pilot that makes us want to come back for more. Not Recommended, Family Law premieres Sunday (10/2) on the CW.