HARRY’S LAW “In The Ghetto” Review

HARRY’S LAW “In The Ghetto” Episode 8 – This was a pretty ambitious undertaking, wrapping an episode of this law drama around an Elvis Presley tune. But they did, pulling it off with more than your average success, and came through with what was possibly the best Harry’s Law episode of the season.

And it was mostly because of the women. Gotta credit the chicks on this one, man.

“In The Ghetto” was co-written by Susan Dickes (who is also a co-producer), and directed by Arlene Sanford, a two-time Emmy nominated director who helmed more than a few of the better Boston Legal and Desperate Housewives episodes from seasons’ past. (She also directed A Very Brady Sequel, but I don’t hold that against her.) And maybe that’s what this series needed: an injection of estrogen. A woman’s touch seems to have worked.

The scenes were fast-paced without being rushed, and the dialogue flowed. Harry’s quips seemed to come more naturally than in previous episodes; Kathy Bates had some good lines and was able to apply her requisite drawl (and her vaguely-annoyed thousand yard stare) without being hurried. Jenna (Brittany Snow) had some small issues, especially with the “We have to move!” bit of whining she did, but that was all pushed to the side once she locked lips with Malcolm (Aml Ameen).

Didn’t see that coming! Maybe I should have. But at least they found something to do with Ameen, who up to this point has been terrible. Was it a searing, fireball of a kiss? No, it was appropriately tentative—even Malcolm’s inspired return kiss—especially given who these characters are. But this raises all sorts of interesting work/relationship conundrums for both Jenna and Malcolm. I can’t imagine Harry will be thrilled, though I also can’t imagine them telling her.

I envision some denial will be happening, probably followed by some sneaking around, which will in turn be followed by them getting caught at exactly the wrong moment. But I like it. It’s certainly more promising than an Adam/Chunhua tryst.

Speaking of Adam, Nate Corddry was again at the top of his game. After he almost gets shot on the streets, we do see a shift in Adam’s behavior, however slight. (Aside: did anyone else think Adam was leaping in front of the bullets? For a moment I did, and I wanted to yell, “Are you crazy?!” Then of course we see he leapt the OTHER way. Lawyers ain’t dumb!) Harry notices it right away, and so did I; the slight stoop of Adam’s shoulders, already halfway ducking anything that might fly his way. The slight jut of his jaw, as though he was steeling himself; I imagined he was holding some sort of inner-dialogue with himself, constantly telling himself to calm down, not aware that this interior conversation was translating onto his body language.

Or at least MY brain was telling me that’s what HIS brain was doing.

If that makes sense. I like to hope I wasn’t just reading into it. It looked a little like he was channeling his inner Bryan Cranston, which was interesting. Corddry has been pretty good all season.

Back to the topic of women, since they made this episode particularly awesome; the guest stars were spot on. Camryn Manheim was her usual smart self, playing the role of Assistant District Attorney Kim Mendelsohn, and I hope this bodes well for future Manheim guest spots. Of course I sort of expected her to be good (it’s frickin’ Manheim); it was some of the others who surprised me by really shining. Amy Aquino is really starting to grow on me as Judge Marilyn Coulis; Sumalee Montano had a small but excellently nuanced role as a take-charge doctor; and Latanya Richardson Jackson (one of those actresses you see everywhere but can’t quite place her until the credits role) had a tasty little part playing the mother of gang victim Lewis (Rashad Hood). When that woman cries, you believe it.

So I guess a chunk of credit goes to the casting people! Ken Miller and Nikki Valko, take a bow!

Props are also due for the kid who played Willie Blue (Trevor Jackson). Energetic kid, and he played the “Snoop Doogie” (best line of the night) role with verve. Hey, I bought into the premise that he could perform emergency surgeries at the age of sixteen. That in itself is something.

Ending the episode to the same (and titular) Elvis tune Tommy Jackson was singing just brought the whole thing full circle. Harry’s Law still isn’t a perfect show, no, but when David E. Kelley gets a little help from his (girl) friends, things seem to really steer in the right direction. I really enjoyed this one.

Gotta scoot; I have an Elvis song I need to go buy on iTunes.

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