I must admit I have never spent any time in Shondaland. Yes, you read that correctly. I have not once changed the channel to watch ABC’s TGIT but, from what I understand, there’s some quality to this magical night. Having produced several hit TV shows with surprising longevity, it would make sense to dive in and discover what the hype is all about. The latest show from powerhouse producer Shonda Rhimes, For the People, won’t be joining the TGIT line up but is it worth a watch?
For the People was created by Scandal veteran Paul William Davies. It follows a group of six smart, but young lawyers as they join the United States District Court — The Mother Court— in the Southern District of New York state aka New York City. They are good at what they do and are experienced with law but, for the first time, they are dealing with high profile cases in one of the biggest cities in the country. This incoming “freshman class” as I’ll call them are made up of prosecutors and public defenders. Each lawyer is clearly familiar with the game and the rules, but now they’re playing in the major leagues and not everyone is as prepared as they thought.
The show is fast-paced and throws the audience into the fire along with the sextet. It demands attention and while it explains when it needs to, For the People believes its audience to be smart and expects them to retain information as the pilot progresses. For the most part, the whole experience feels real. We the viewers need to adapt to the rhythms and workings of the show, just like the lawyers in their new positions.
Of course everything about working in the Mother Court is glamorous and exciting. From the polished looks each lawyer maintains, and the beautiful offices they occupy, to the apartments they rent, and the lawyers who supervise them, this high profile court is exactly that. Even the cases they are given involve terrorism, insider trading, and money swindling. It’s messy stuff, but there is nothing boring about it.
As for the characters themselves we have a very interesting group of people. Each is young, energetic, confident in themselves, and holds strong personal beliefs. This show gives them moments to shine, but also dishes out some serious lessons in errors of judgment and mistakes. Sandra (Britt Robertson) is a public defender who’s a spirited go-getter. She’s willing to rise to any challenge or even seek one out. On her first day she asks to be put on duty—take on any incoming cases—and winds up with defending a suspected terrorist. Prosecutor Leonard (Rege-Jean Page) always gets (or takes) what he wants and convinces his supervisor to exchange his current “easy” assignment with the terrorist case. A win for him and a slap in the face of his coworker Seth (Ben Rappaport). Seth is in a relationship with public defender Allison (Jasmin Savoy Brown), and after losing the terrorist case to Leonard, winds up as her opponent in court. (It’s juicy stuff, folks!) Finally, we have Kate and Jay. Kate (Susannah Flood) is a super organized, by the book, pay attention to every detail prosecutor, a la Paris Gellar from Gilmore Girls minus the snarky-ness. Jay (Wesam Keesh) is an optimistic, if not naive, public defender who believes he can trust his first client and gets a harsh does of reality when said client calls him a “real tool.”
I went in with no expectations whatsoever and I came out very intrigued. I truly appreciate the approach that Davies is taking with For the People by showing both sides of the courtroom and giving strong reasons and evidence why each lawyer believes in their side of the case. It’s political but not preachy and doesn’t come out with an easy win for everyone. Life is messy. Rules are broken. Should there be punishment? What does that punishment look like and is it fair?
If you like courtroom and relationship dramas then this show is definitely worth checking out. The characters are interesting and provide a large canvas for potential background stories and personal development. I rule in favor of For the People.
For the People premieres Tuesday, March 13th at 10pm EDT on ABC