By Kari Croop,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Truth, justice, and fairness from a likable female lead.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
The overall message is that the world isn't black and white -- and neither is the law. Therefore, bending small rules is OK, but only if it's done in pursuit of real justice. The series also pushes compromise above conflict and shows that strong, smart women can work together in spite of their differences.
Positive Role Models
The main character is a mediator, which means she’s skilled at helping people find common ground and compromise within the law. She also has compassion for others and strongly believes in doing the right thing.
Violence & Scariness
A few cases involve acts of violence, but nothing gory. (For example, a drawn weapon.)
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Implied sex but nothing graphic, and no sensitive body parts are shown.
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Gateway words like "bitch," "hell," "dick," "ass," "damn," "prick," etc.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Infrequent social drinking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this is a great choice for older teen girls who are looking for positive female role models on television -- and that's a task that's a lot more difficult than you might think. The show also pushes a message of fairness and compromise, but without being preachy. Content-wise, it's surprisingly mild, with veiled allusions to sexual activity and spare social drinking. That said, you'll hear some iffy audibles like "damn," "ass," and "prick."
Where to Watch
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What's the Story?
In the wake of her lawyer father's death, Kate Reed (Sarah Shahi) changes jobs within the family firm, switching from an attorney to a mediator. She's never liked conflict much, so it's a perfect fit -- plus, it's a FAIRLY LEGAL way to make the legal system work better for everyone. Too bad she's no good at resolving disputes in her own life, whether she's avoiding her stepmother boss Lauren (Virginia Williams) or navigating divorce with her soon-to-be ex-husband, Patrick (Michael Trucco).
Is It Any Good?
With spunky mediator Kate Reed, the USA network has added another winner to its growing roster of great characters, joining the likes of unlicensed P.I. Michael Westen (Burn Notice's Jeffrey Donovan) and odd-couple agents Neal Caffrey and Peter Stokes (White Collar's Matthew Bomer and Tim DeKay). For starters, Shahi's take on Reed involves a subtle scoop of Sandra Bullock that, whether intentional or not, makes her an instantly likeable female lead. And, like Bullock, Shahi's also got great comedic timing, which adds zip to the show's lawyerly plots without veering into slapstick.
It's also refreshing to see a show about women in the workplace that doesn't feel like "A Show about Women in the Workplace"; in other words, Kate and Lauren -- who doubles as Kate's boss and the head of a major firm -- just happen to be women who work. Fairly Legal alludes to the challenges they face, including sexism from certain male clients and the fact that, although the women are similar in age, Lauren married Kate's father...not to mention the fact that each takes a completely different approach to the law. But the writers refuse to beat you over the head with the tired cliche that women can't work well together.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about female role models and how women tend to be portrayed on TV. Does the central character step away from popular stereotypes about women or reinforce them, particularly when it comes to interactions with her female boss?
What does Kate mean when she says that the world isn't black and white? Do you agree with her? In a "gray" world, what are the benefits of using alternative dispute resolution to settle legal disagreements as opposed to going to trial?
What's your impression of the legal system? Is the law set up to punish people or to help them change? Do lawyers, judges, and police officers have a responsibilty to put fairness above right and wrong?
- Premiere date: January 20, 2011
- Cast: Michael Trucco, Sarah Shahi, Virginia Williams
- Network: USA
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Great Girl Role Models
- Character Strengths: Integrity
- TV rating: TV-PG
- Last updated: January 1, 2023
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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