David E. Kelley’s The Law Firm debuts on NBC tonight

Once upon a time, David E. Kelley called reality TV “trash” and “junk.” Tonight at 9 p.m. ET, he debuts his own reality series on NBC.

The Law Firm follows “12 actual lawyers competing against each other while trying real court cases with judges and juries, resulting in outcomes that will be final, legal and binding.” Of course, there will also be eliminations; the last lawyer standing gets $250,000. They’ll be mentored by trial attorney Roy Black.

Kelley addresses his apparent hypocrisy in an interview with The Boston Herald, saying,

“Some reality television I actually quite liked, the first one being ‘American Idol,’ but most of the fare I felt disrespected the medium and more importantly degraded its contestants. This particular series I don’t think will do either. I think it’s a smart show and it gives our contestants a chance to excel. It’s not a forum to exploit or ridicule the lawyers who are a part of this franchise, it’s just the opposite. It’s a place where the brightest will shine.”

Critics seem unable to move past the fact that the series is another Apprentice clone. The Boston Globe’s Matthew Gilbert writes that the series is “just one more shark race — this time among lawyers — in an ocean of Trumpian ego-trip TV.” In the New York Times, Alessandra Stanley says the show is just “a pallid Trump imitation.” And The Hollywood Reporter’s Ray Richmond writes that “[t]here is nothing inherently annoying about the hour apart from its very existence.”

The Law Firm [NBC]
Reality TV opponent David E. Kelley makes a case for ‘The Law Firm’ [The Boston Herald]

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.