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'girls club' is theater of the absurd

Sunday, October 20, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

They should have called this show "brats club." It's a more appropriate title.

Veteran writer/executive producer Davie E. Kelley's latest is actually called "girls club," with a noted lack of capitalization for stylistic purposes only.


"girls club"

When: 9 p.m. tomorrow on Fox.

Starring: Gretchen Mol, Kathleen Robertson, Chyler Leigh.

Forsaking the fantasy excesses of "Ally McBeal," Kelley's latest lawyer show is set in the supposed real world and follows the trials -- personal, professional and in the courtroom -- of three recent law school grads working for a prestigious San Francisco firm.

All three are beautiful, all three are supposedly intelligent, yet all three do incredibly dumb things in the first two episodes made available for review.

Jeannie Falls (Kathleen Roberston, "Beverly Hills, 90210") is the most grounded of the three, at least until the end of the second episode when, in a moment of anger, she commits a criminal act.

Of the three, Jeannie is the only one with justifiable complaints about a senior partner, who sexually harasses her. The other two women are just whiners.

Lynne (Gretchen Mol) dismisses all the constructive criticism of her boss, Nicholas Hahn (Giancarlo Esposito).

"If I ever make partner, shoot me if I act like one," she sasses.

Sarah (Chyler Leigh, "That '80s Show") is the big mouth with no self-control, who gripes about fairness. She gets mad at a colleague in a room full of co-workers and calls the woman "a total dyke." Sarah immediately apologizes, but later threatens her, saying, "Watch your back."

The older characters designed to be nemeses of the girls of the show's title are far more interesting. Their brusque style may be objectionable, but at least they don't behave like idiots without decorum.

"The reason I push you so hard is because I believe you're a keeper," Hahn tells Lynne. She takes the compliment and twists it into something ugly.

"You make me sound like a trout," Lynne says.

Kind of makes you want to wring her neck, doesn't it?

Kelley, who wrote tomorrow's premiere, continues to traffic in needlessly sexual stories. The premiere includes a legal case about a woman who visited her gynecologist. The doctor passed out between the woman's legs and you can imagine where his face ended up.

After a senior partner (Lisa Banes) calls one of the young women an "arrogant little snot," something viewers will likely nod their heads in agreement at, she paints a picture of the men in power at the firm by describing a sex act my editors rightfully wouldn't allow me to include here.

Premiering at 9 p.m. tomorrow, "girls club" follows the season premiere of "Boston Public." But even at 9 and even on Fox, "club" goes to unnecessary, gratuitous extremes, especially when it comes to profanity.

Perhaps Kelley has run out of ideas and his only recourse is to push the envelope of what's permissible on broadcast television. Whatever the reason, it's a sad decline for a producer who was once the medium's most creative and reliable source of quality dramas.

That said, "girls club" looks great. It's a well-executed show with a distinctly crisp visual look by Western Pennsylvania native Todd Holland ("Malcolm in the Middle"), who directed the premiere.

And offensive as it is, "girls club" is entertaining in a they-can't-be-serious way. Maybe it would work as a full-bore soap. As it is, jaws will drop across the country tomorrow night as viewers get to know these characters and realize how supremely stupid they are. It makes you wonder how these women made it into and through law school.

"Lynn, if I can be older and wiser for a moment," an assistant district attorney says.

"You can be older," Lynne flippantly replies.

Viewers who tune in expecting an unintentional comedy of the absurd, won't be disappointed.

You can reach Rob Owen at 412-263-2582 orrowen@post-gazette.com . Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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