Picks and Pans Review: The Law Firm

UPDATED 08/01/2005 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 08/01/2005 at 01:00 AM EDT

NBC (Thursdays, 9 p.m. ET)

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In 2003, producer David E. Kelley decried reality TV as "an erosion of respect for the medium by its guardians." Now he's joined the dark side, but with an instantly addictive show that energizes brain cells instead of zapping them. The concept—12 lawyers team up to try cases while competing for a $250,000 prize—is standard issue. But the trials feature wacky characters (a three-legged dog), and the contestants provide crackling, Ally McBeal-level dialogue ("I'd rather choke Michael than stab him," says one attorney of a rival. "It's more personal"). Seeing the lawyers strategize, prep witnesses and, in one stunning episode, bungle a slamdunk case, I learned more about the judicial system than I did from the entire run of Kelley's own The Practice.

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