Let’s Remember Just Legal

Let’s Remember is an opportunity for those who watched relatively recent short-lived TV shows, as well as those who didn’t, to share their thoughts and memories, to help ensure that these shows aren’t forgotten. This month’s column examines Just Legal (The WB, 2005; 2006).

The Basics

Title: Just Legal
Network: The WB
Cast: Don Johnson as Grant Cooper; Jay Baruchel as David “Skip” Ross; Jaime Lee Kirchner as Dulcinea “Dee” Real
Air dates: September 19th, 2005 – October 3rd, 2005; August 13th, 2006 – September 10th, 2006
Time slot: Mondays at 9PM ET; Sundays at 7PM ET
Episodes: 9 episodes (1 unaired)

Official Synopsis

I couldn’t find an archived version of The WB’s official website for Just Legal. Here’s an official synopsis from TV.com:

“Just Legal” is a fast-paced procedural drama with humor starring Jay Baruchel (“Undeclared,” “Million Dollar Baby”) and Don Johnson (“Miami Vice,” “Nash Bridges”) as lawyers who save their clients, and in the process, save themselves. David “Skip” Ross (Baruchel), 19, a brilliant legal prodigy, dreams of becoming a great trial lawyer. When he can’t land a job at a prestigious L.A. firm because he’s too young, Skip ends up working for Grant Cooper (Johnson). Once a great lawyer, now burnt-out by the realities of life, Cooper is barely scraping by in his beachfront law office. Together, Skip and Cooper become defenders of the accused and crusaders for the unjustly wronged. Their cases vary from stories ripped from today’s headlines to clever mysteries with procedural twists.

Skip’s middle-class parents, Deborah (Veanne Cox,”Erin Brockovich”) and Lenny Ross (Raphael Sbarge,”The Guardian”), and his under-achieving younger brother Tom (newcomer Michael Mitchell), are all extremely proud of Skip’s accomplishments, but are also concerned for his well-being, especially when his first case involves proving the innocence of a young woman named Paradise (Peyton List,”The Greatest Game Ever Played”) who has been falsely accused of a gang-related murder. Always the underdogs, forced to do the gritty work of finding clues and tracking down witnesses in the beautiful, but often dangerous world of Southern California, Cooper teaches Skip to be a lawyer and a man, while Skip renews Cooper’s faith in the law and himself.

Jerry Bruckheimer (“CSI,” “Cold Case,” “Without a Trace”), Jonathan Littman (“CSI,” “Cold Case,” “Without a Trace”) and Jonathan Shapiro (“The Practice,” “Boston Legal”) are executive producers for Jerry Bruckheimer Television in association with Warner Bros. Television Production Inc.

Program Notes

Just Legal was part of The WB’s final crop of new fall shows. The network merged with UPN to form The CW prior to the start of the 2006-2007 season.

-A repeat of the pilot episode aired on Wednesday, September 21st, 2005 from 9-10PM ET.

-TNT repeated the October 3rd, 2005 episode from 10-11PM ET, immediately after it aired on The WB.

-The WB repeated the pilot episode again on Sunday, August 6th, 2006. The network then aired five additional episodes, leaving one unaired.

TV Guide’s Take

From the 2006 TV Guide Fall Preview issue:

There’s real chemistry between geek and geezer. But Just Legal might be more effective if it were closer in tone to a courtroom Scrubs than an awkward mix of earnest legal drama and broad-stroke character comedy. Still, it’s miles better than Fox’s similarly theme Head Cases.

Reviews

The New York Times – Alessandra Stanley (9/16/2005)
USA Today – Robert Bianco (9/18/2005)
Variety – Brian Lowry (9/18/2005)
The Los Angeles Times – Paul Brownfield (9/19/2005)
The Hartford Courant – Roger Catlin (9/19/2005)

Opening Credits

My Thoughts

I didn’t watch the three episodes of Just Legal aired at the start of the 2005-2006 season. But when The WB began burning off unaired episodes during the summer of 2006, I started watching. That means I watched a repeat of the pilot and five other episodes. However, I have no recollection of the show. I remember nothing about the characters or the episodes. The handful of clips available on YouTube don’t jog my memory. I think I do remember the brief opening credits sequence–or at least the theme (“Pump It” by The Black Eyed Peas).

Not mentioned in the official synopsis are the other two members of the main cast. Jaime Lee Kirchner played Dulcinea “Dee” Real, an ex-con who works as Grant Cooper’s receptionist to pay off her legal fees and satisfy her parole. Susan Ward played Skip’s law school classmate Kate Manat who works for the prestigious law firm that refused to hire him. Neither character appeared in in the pilot. There was some romantic tension between Skip and Kate but I don’t think the show survived long enough to explore it.

Reiley McClendon had a recurring role as Skip’s younger brother Tom. I don’t remember how much of an impact his character had.

Although I can’t recall anything about the show, it doesn’t seem like Just Legal fit in with The WB’s brand. The bulk of the network’s schedule during the 2005-2006 season consisted of family dramas (Gilmore Girls, Everwood), sitcoms (What I Like About You, Twins), and a handful of comic book/horror shows (Smallville, Supernatural). Just Legal was an odd mix of comedy and legal drama. I’m not surprised viewers didn’t tune in.

If not for the fact that The WB and UPN were merging, would The WB have burned off five of the six unaired episodes during the summer of 2006? The demise of The WB likely gave the few fans of the show the opportunity to watch most of the produced episodes.

Where to Watch

Nowhere. Just Legal is not available on DVD or digital download nor is it streaming anywhere.


Hit the comments with your thoughts and memories to ensure Just Legal doesn’t slip into obscurity.


3 Comments

  • James Shell says:

    I didn’t see it, but it sounds dreadful. One of those shows that seems to have been made solely to satisfy what seems to be the requirement that anyone who was ever the star of a hit show be given unlimited chances to star in another.

  • DuMont says:

    I enjoyed this series, though I didn’t really discover it until the summer run. I thought Mr. Jay Baruchel (from FOX’s ‘Undeclared’ a few seasons previous) was particularly good as the principled, by-the-book young lawyer paired up with the ambulance-chasing Don Johnson. Like all Bruckenheimer series, the show sometimes emphasized style over substance (lots of flashy camera-work as I remember).

    The series got better as it progressed through episodes, and “The Body in the Trunk”, “The Heater”, “The Rainmaker” and “The Code” were all well-written, well-cast and shinily-produced episodes, let down only by a flat finale epiosde.

    The first three episodes in the fall of 2005 averaged 2.2HH/3%, 1.03 A18-49 and 3,100,000 P2+ and was pulled because of poor retention (and perhaps concept incompatability) with ‘Seventh Heaven’, the WB’s young-skewing durable family show. When it returned in August 2006 for its summer burnoff of five additional episodes, it averaged 0.9HH/2%, 0.47 A18-49, 1,200,000 P2+ in the Sunday 7-8 pm timeslot (I seem to remember The WB paired a repeat of the week before episode with a burnoff of ‘Pepper Dennis’ in the 5-7 pm Easyview timeslot). By today’s standards, these numbers would cause publicists at The CW to cartwheel down the hallways, but then is not now as we live in a hopelessly fractionalized media environment.

    This series deserves a DVD, at the very least one of those manufactured-on-demand offerings. Thanks for bringing back the nice memories as this was one of the final handful of shows to get activated by the old WB programming department who more or less got pushed out the door when the CBS-WB merged network arose.

  • Patrick McNamara says:

    Considering it was a WB show it would make sense that it should show up on the WB Archives if anywhere.

    The fall preview special, WB Inside and Out, had a segment for the show as well as a couple of previews. The big selling point seems to be that it was a Don Johnson show. It was aired in HD (according to a watermark), so a good quality DVD wouldn’t be that difficult to produce.

    It was promoted as being on Monday nights. If so then there would be a good reason nobody watched. On Monday nights at nine that season ABC had football, CBS had 2 and 1/2 Men, NBC had Las Vegas and FOX had Prison Break. It was just buried by too many other strong shows. Even if viewers were interested they weren’t likely to leave their other shows to check it out.

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