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The show opens with a young woman running through a mailroom uttering the immortal line: “I have a motion for summary judgment due in 45 minutes!” Instantly, it strikes you that you aren’t exactly in “ER” or “Sopranos” country. No, the smart people at NBC — the ones who supersized your “Friends,” picked Jay Leno over Dave Letterman, and once gave a half-hour sitcom to Jenny McCarthy — have thrust upon us a drama dealing with the trials and tribulations of first-year associates in a large law firm. As far as the reviewing trade goes, this, my friends, is what we call a batting-practice fastball. “I am their first-year slut,” comely Riley tells us in the first frightening few minutes of “First Years,” which premieres Monday, March 19, at 9 p.m., and should come and go from your TV screen faster than a state court status conference. (Lawyer joke. Get ready for ‘em.) Riley is one of five extraordinarily good-looking and smart young lawyers who have gone to work at the tongue-tying Hoberman Spain McPherson & O’Donnell in San Francisco. And when our remedial rangers of the research memo aren’t billing major time at Mother Firm, they live together in a group house in Haight-Ashbury. Because, you know, that’s just where most groups of young lawyers live. So, what we have here is your basic “The Real World” meets “The Practice” gene-spliced with “Ally McBeal” with a side-helping of “Melrose Place” and an after-dinner mint of “Party of Five.” This series, by the way, bears no relation to the show “D.C.” that ran last spring on one of those anonymous minor networks with the Talking Frog. That show was about a set of great-looking young professionals who lived in a group home in Kalorama with a fabulous view of the Washington Monument. It was completely different. For instance, in that show one of the lawyers was a lobbyist. Now, we have come to the part of the column in which the Judge reluctantly talks about himself. As longtime readers know (insert joke here), the Judge is loath to shed any light into the darkness that is his private life. The last thing the Judge wants is to end up splashed on the front page of some tabloid like The Globe or The National Law Journal. In all fairness and due diligence, the Judge, however, must come clean about his murky past. He once, a lifetime ago, in another town, when he went by another name, worked as a first-year associate in a monolithic, soul-killing Large Firm. (All right. Maybe “soul-killing” is a bit extreme. But they weren’t very nice, and you had to work a lot. On the other hand, there was free coffee.) So when the Judge tells you that “First Years” has as much to do with what real first-year associates do in a large law firm as “Deep Throat” had to do with tonsillectomies, you’d better take some serious judicial notice. Our merry band of low-watt litigators includes the overly earnest Anna Weller (Samantha Mathis from “Broken Arrow” and “The American President.” That whump was her career hitting the bottom floor); boring boy-next-door Warren Harrison (Mackenzie Astin); and rich charmer Miles Standish-er, Lawton (Ken Marino). You can tell he’s the rich boy because he wears turtlenecks. Then there is the lovely Riley Kessler (Sydney Tamiia Poitier), who is described in damning fashion by the NBC press notes as “simply normal” and who is dating, for no apparent reason, the goofy nonconformist named — and the Judge really needs to take a breath here — Egg (James Roady). Egg is the show’s resident wacky associate, the one who refuses to bow to convention. And we all know that young lawyers in flowered shirts and vintage jackets are flooding the halls of most of The American Lawyer‘s Top 100 Law Firms across the country. (Note: The Judge regrets that he temporarily had to hand this space over to the marketing department so it could cross-promote this with the other editorial products in the company’s vertically integrated legal publishing empire.) Anna and Miles once had a Thing Goin’ On. But in an early scene, we see that things have cooled as Anna tumbles out of the bed of an anonymous sex partner in her introductory scene. See if the following conversation matches what you heard around the copy machine this morning: MILES: You had sex last night, didn’t you? ANNA: Yep. MILES: It should have been me. ANNA: He can’t hurt me. Can you make that promise? That Anna is quite a legal prodigy, both defending her right to shake her tailfeather with any ol’ tomcat on the street and negotiating a contractual promise with binding mutual consideration at the same time. She’s miles ahead of Miles, who simply looks dumbfounded most of the pilot episode. At one point, Anna confesses her love to Miles, who doesn’t hear her because he’s wearing headphones while downloading scores of MP3s from Napster. (Finally, a dose of reality.) Meanwhile, the abysmally normal Riley has been stuck with “the case nobody else wants.” An African-American mother in prison for felony murder wants to prevent a white couple from adopting her baby. You know, that’s all we used to get at my Big Firm, just one felony-murder-racially-charged-adoption case after another. Like an assembly line. Pretty soon, the associates got sick of them and sunk their teeth instead into something exciting like asbestosis defense. As for Riley, has the Judge mentioned that she is, surprise, the product of a black father and a white mother? So that this case cuts to the heart of her very being. There are many agonizing moments when a family court judge, played by Charlie Robinson, the guy who used to play Mac on “Night Court,” has to decide whether an African-American baby is culturally disadvantaged by being raised by white people. And, in a stunning nod to realism, the judge defers on making a decision, instead gruffly instructing the parties to “work it out.” Riley, like everyone else, still has time to talk about sex — amazingly at the same time that she is trying to sympathize with a woman in maximum security for felony murder. Anna has nothing on her. “I think people in jail have more sex than me and Egg,” Riley laments. (And you have to wonder about any woman who calls her boyfriend “Egg.”) Meanwhile, the rest of the Mystery Machine Gang are working for snaky partner Sam O’Donnell, played by Eric Shaeffer. Shaeffer once directed a very bad movie called “If Lucy Fell,” in which he cast himself opposite Sarah Jessica Parker. And the Judge can only imagine that back then, Shaeffer routinely thought: “Hey, I’m pretty cool. I’m getting it on with Sarah Jessica Parker! I’ll never have to be stuck playing a second-fiddle supporting role to a bunch of pretty punks on some NBC midseason Hindenberg that will get thumped in its regular Monday time slot opposite ‘Everybody Loves Raymond.’ ” Or something like that. O’Donnell commands the full-time work of five associates in an impressive and excessive display of law firm leveraging made more impressive and excessive by the fact that he is using them all in a case that involves him trying to avoid paying alimony to his ex-wife. Needless to say, none of this “work” involves writing memos or spending nights in the library or enduring weeks of sifting through employee records in some unheated warehouse in Cleveland like the Judge had to do one entire freakin’ month of December while everyone else was having fun going to holiday parties and – Whew. Sorry. Flashbacks are a bitch. How does it end? Well, you know the Judge hates to wreck a good ending … Oh, screw it. Sensitive Turtleneck Man Miles convinces the partner’s ex-wife to give love another chance. Exceedingly average Riley makes sure baby ends up with the white people and betrays her entire heritage, and we all conclude that Hoberman Spain McPherson & O’Donnell is in deep, deep trouble. Start the dissolution rumors. Judge Dread presides over the toughest court of all: The Court of Public Opinion. His XFL nickname is “The Adjudicator.”

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