“Fairly Legal” star Sarah Shahi didn’t get into the details about why the show’s creator and executive producer, Michael Sardo, left the show after Season One.
But she did concede in a telephone news conference the other day that, for Season Two, the show has “taken all the things from the first season that didn’t work and changed them.”
In answering a reporter’s question about the change in leadership on the show, she noted that Sardo is no longer working on the show he created — not even as a writer. She even referred to him as “a check collector” — meaning that he still gets paid because of the “Created by” credit he gets on the show. The new show-runner on “Fairly Legal” is Peter Ocko.
Shahi, 32, is the undisputed star of “Fairly Legal,” on which she plays an attorney who specializes in mediation (in the legal field, mediators are hired by parties in conflict to hear each of their sides of the story and then give advice and/or render a binding decision — it’s like having an out-of-court hearing with the mediator acting as judge and jury).
Like other characters on the character-driven shows on USA (whose slogan is “Characters welcome”), Kate Reed has all kinds of quirks and flaws. She’s getting a divorce, she clashes with the young widow of her late father, she’s struggling to remain employed at her late father’s high-powered law firm, and, of course, she’s looking out for the little guy in the disputes she mediates. And she lives on a boat — her father’s.
Apparently, it was the quality of some of those mediations last season that proved irksome, in retrospect. “I think the first seasons of any show, more or less, are kind of a trial period,” Shahi told reporters. “And the fact that we got brought back to do a second season was great because then we were able to take all the things from the first season that didn’t work and change them. And one of the things that didn’t work is, the show sometimes last year felt a little silly. Sometimes the mediations felt a little silly and we needed to ground it a little bit more. So that’s what this season has been about.”
So, what does “grounding it” mean exactly? Well, to be sure, the main issue in question in the case she’s mediating in the season opener this week is certainly not silly. It has to do with a manufacturer who knew his assembly-line workers were being exposed to cancer-causing chemicals and did nothing.
But in the non-mediating portions of the show, “Fairly Legal” traffics in the rapid-fire dialogue of other shows on USA, particular those with two or more strong-willed protagonists. This season, Kate is sparring with a brash, young attorney played by Ryan Johnson. If you’re thinking the sparring will lead to romance, or at least sex, then you’re probably correct, but that’s not going to happen for a while. For now, the addition of Johnson to the cast — as lawyer Ben Grogan — sets up a kind of sexual tension triangle between Kate, Ben and her soon-to-be ex-, assistant district attorney Justin Patrick (Michael Trucco).
Another highlight she revealed that excites us too: Meat Loaf guest-stars in an upcoming episode.
The season premiere of “Fairly Legal” airs Friday (March 16) at 9/8c on USA Network.