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Amid legalese, ‘Fairly Legal' is fresh

Dale Roe

Tired of lawyer shows? Me, too.

I'm afraid that others like us are going to be turned off by the title of USA's enchanting new series, "Fairly Legal," premiering Thursday, Jan. 20. That would be a shame. Because the series, starring an adorable Sarah Shahi as a somewhat goofy but brilliant mediator, is really an anti-lawyer show.

Shahi's Kate Reed is a former lawyer who got tired of all the legal mumbo jumbo, rules and loopholes. She still works at her deceased father's law firm, trying to get warring clients on the same page and, in the pilot, performing pro bono mediation mandated by an irascible judge. Her stepmother runs the firm now, and Sarah still holds a grudge about the woman breaking up her father's marriage. The divorced Kate has been no luckier in love, but she maintains a friendly relationship with her ex-husband (Michael Trucco), who works for the district attorney. And she's got new home digs, too, camping out in the marina on her father's boat.

In spite of all of this upheaval, Kate remains upbeat. She is given to whimsy — especially in her creative solutions in resolving legal disputes — and although she might seem something like an updated Ally McBeal, "Fairly Legal" is thankfully void of that show's signature flights of fancy.

Also premiering Thursday, Jan. 20

NBC's three-hour comedy block is finally here. The network ditched the 9 p.m. drama slot and filled out the prime time schedule with the return of "Parks and Recreation" (8:30 p.m.) and a new sitcom, "Perfect Couples" (7:30 p.m.). I'm all for the return of Amy Poehler's "Parks and Rec," but "Perfect Couples" is a mess (and really, you're just handing critics and headline writers a gift when you put the word "perfect" in the title of your show). The acting is bad, the story is pointless and I couldn't find a single character I cared about. "Perfect Couples" makes "Outsourced" look brilliant. Headline writer, have at it.

‘Fairly Legal': 9 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 20, on USA