Looking for a television show about the gritty realities of being a junior associate in a large law firm, a show that pulls no punches, one that really gets down in the trenches and tells it like it is? David E. Kelley’s new “girls club,” about three young female associates at a conservative San Francisco firm who have been friends since law school, is not it, at all. (But it does contain as many clich�s as this paragraph, which must qualify as some sort of achievement.)

The show, which premiered Monday night, brings all of DEK’s favorite lawyer-fantasy elements into play: young, thin, sexy women; sass, in spades; at least one (1) dramatic murder trial per episode (which reminds me: What kind of firm is this, again?); the flexing of power; ageism; sexism; and impassioned speeches by all and sundry. Oh, and of course, enough mild cursing, rude hand gestures, and “adult situations” to qualify for a “mature content” warning.

It’s hard to overstate the unreality on display in “girls club.” From the sheer size of the enormous bathroom in the girls’ supposed San Francisco apartment, to their extreme youth (one of the actresses is 20, and looks it), to the wicked tightness of all their clothes, to the carefully-constructed Crayola box ethnicities of the lawyers at the firm, to the girls lunching in a sunny park that San Franciscans know to be overrun with homeless people, to the fact that a very junior associate tries a capital case on her own, it’s pure hokum from start to finish. Even the young associates’ friends-as-family closeness and the rah-rah cheerleading and counseling — the “grrrl” in “girls club” — is laughable.

That said, “girls club” isn’t the worst show ever. There are standout performances from Giancarlo Esposito (as a senior partner) and Felicity Huffman (as a prosecutor). There’s an older female partner known as the “Praying Mantis” who’s calm, cool, and maybe the best verbal slice-and-dice artist I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch (if I had a dollar for every time she laid the smackdown on one of the young tootsies … ).

There’s serious, desperate competition/sabotage/one-upsmanship among the associates, particularly between Sarah, one of our heroines, and the more-senior Randa, which culminates in Sarah losing her cool completely and launching a raging hissyfit in full view of the whole firm. (It almost gets her fired; only Sarah’s many abject apologies and a sentence of 10 Saturdays of sensitivity training — unbillable time, alas — saves her job. As it is, she’s already working with black marks on her record for making a habit of actually going out for lunch, and leaving the office while it’s still light outside.)

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