A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this mature legal drama isn't intended for kids. The main character is a talented but flawed defense attorney who will do whatever it takes to defend her clients, even break the law. The show blurs the lines between right and wrong by presenting some of her iffy actions as being morally justified. She also engages in some self-destructive behavior -- like drinking heavily and having an affair -- in order to cope with the loss of her kidnapped son. There's lots of drinking and some strong language ("ass," "bitch"), as well as descriptions of sexual and violent behavior, including the murder of a child.
What's the story?
CANTERBURY'S LAW centers on Elizabeth Canterbury (former ER star Julianna Margulies), a talented but rather antagonistic lawyer who will do whatever it takes to keep her wrongfully accused clients out of jail. Assisting her are former prosecutor Russell Krauss (Ben Shenkman), recent law school graduate Molly McConnell (Trieste Kelly Dunn), and Chester Grant (Keith Robinson), a bright young lawyer trying to step outside of the shadow of his congressman father. But while Canterbury works tirelessly to defend her clients, she can't quite get a handle on her private life, which has been spiraling out of control since her young son disappeared.
Is it any good?
Unlike notable legal dramas such as Law & Order and The Practice, this series focuses less on complex legal issues and criminal justice procedures than on Canterbury's inability to cope with her own reality. While she's clearly grieving for her son, her self-destructive behavior -- like cheating on husband Matt Furley (Aidan Quinn) -- makes it hard to empathize with her. Worse, when confronted with a seemingly unwinnable case, she goes from pushing boundaries to crossing some ethical -- and even legal -- lines to help her client. Although the show attempts to justify her actions as moral, they dilute whatever talent or authority she has in the courtroom.
Unfortunately, focusing on Canterbury's flaws isn't enough to make this very grown-up series memorable. There are few surprising or climactic moments to make it exciting, and it lacks any kind of wittiness to make it fun to watch.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how TV tends to portray lawyers and the legal profession. What are some stereotypes about lawyers? Do you think legal dramas perpetuate these stereotypes or help eliminate them? Is it ever OK for a lawyer to bend or break the rules in order to help a client? Families can also discuss coping with grief. What are some constructive ways people deal with the loss of a loved one? Are Canterbury's coping mechanisms constructive?
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