Reviewing Raising the Bar

I've wanted to review Raising the Bar since it started. But I get so behind in my tivo watching, that I haven't been able to review a recent episode.

But I'm caught up. So, here goes:

First, let me say that I wasn't too impressed by the pilot. I wasn't sure where this was going. But it has greatly improved each week. If you only watched the pilot and gave up on it, I highly suggest that you catch another episode. They're all on the TNT website.

My favorite episode so far was "I Will, I'm Will" which I think was a week or two ago. (Feige, tell TNT to put up an episode guide!) That episode so clearly displayed being asked to do the impossible, on an impossible deadline, with no one on your side, with very few resources, that being a public defender requires.

I guess one of the problems I have with Raising the Bar, like I had with Indefensible, is that I'm not sure that I'm the target audience. Do most people come home and watch a show, or read a book, that is exactly like their life all day? I could see watching a show that is a fictionalized version of their career, or an exaggerated version, but, to Raising the Bar's credit, it's almost too realistic.

So, I sat down last night to watch the newest episode, "Hang Time." In the first scene, Bobbi (the new public defender from Brooklyn, not Philadelphia, my mistake. Either way, she wasn't in the pilot, and she's a great improvement to the show.) is handling a domestic violence case. And they hit the nail on the head. The wife who says "I want my husband to come home with me, I didn't sign the complaint," but can't say it didn't happen. She told the police that he threw a mug at her. It's a bell that is going to be hard to unring.

In the next scene, Jerry is in the pens, talking to his client. His client starts with one of my favorite lines, "Give me some good news." Jerry is talking to his client about a plea offer of 8 years. Throughout the episode, the dialogue between Jerry and his client is so realistic. There are a few lines in this scene that I hear myself saying, or hear my clients say to me, so frequently. "Every trial is a crap shoot."

His client says, "I can't believe that I'm still here." Everyone who gets arrested thinks that they'll quickly be able to clear up the misunderstanding - but that doesn't always happen. Then he says, "If I did this, I would cop out like I did before." I get that.

Back at Bobbi's DV case: The Judge and the D.A. don't want to hear that the "victim" doesn't want an order of protection. The client doesn't understand how he and his wife don't get to go home together. Bobbi tries to warn them both that things will only get worse if they get caught together. But do they listen? Does the D.A. listen to the "victim" when she comes to him and says she doesn't want to go forward?

I shouldn't be surprised that Feige hits the nail on the head. He's been there.

A few little things that bother me:

  • Both Bobbi and someone else in this episode (Jerry?) pronounce the word "complaitan" instead of "complainant." Update: I watched it again to find the second "complaitan" foul but couldn't, but I'm pretty sure it was said at least twice in this episode. Maybe both times by Bobbi, but I'm not sure. Either way, that really grates on me.

  • Neither the D.A.'s office nor the Public Defender's office has any security - the PD's walk in and out of the D.A.'s office to drop off muffins and coffee without being announced, Bobbi's abusive husband walks into the P.D.'s office unannounced. It makes me really glad to have a receptionist in all of the offices where I've worked. I guess it's more about the theatrical effect of having someone walk in unexpectedly or find them sitting at your desk, with their feet up.

  • I didn't like it earlier in the season that Jerry was dating/sleeping with one of the D.A.s. But I think that might be over. We'll see.

  • I don't like that Bobbi is this helpless battered woman in her personal life but a strong, confident lawyer in her professional life. But I guess that's the incongruousness that we're supposed to feel.


I won't give away any of the interesting twists the episode takes, in case you have it sitting on your Tivo too.

But, overall, I think the show is spot on. It almost hits too close to home.

That one scene, when Jerry goes back to his client with the best offer of 3 years, and explains, "I believe you, but I'm not the jury," explains that the only way for the client to get his story across is to take the stand and simultaneously expose his criminal record. And, finally, Jerry says, "You go to trial, and 15 years from now, you'll be sitting in a cell with 10 left to do, wondering why you didn't cop to 3... I'm not happy about it either, but 3? It's too good to pass up." It couldn't be more realistic and the only way it could be more entertaining is if I didn't have to have the same conversation with clients week after week.

But, Feige has given us public defenders something good. Now, when someone asks us, "So, what you do... is that like Law & Order?" I think we can all say, "No, it's more like Raising the Bar. Check that show out."

Without the coffee and muffin delivery to our adversaries, of course.

13 comments:

  1. ***SPOILER ALERT...MAYBE****

    Is Bobbi really so helpless? Without trying to give it away to anyone else that Tivo'd it and hasn't watched it yet...She didn't exactly go crawling back to him did she?

    As far as security goes, you're half right. We have a few offices where people come and go willy nilly...including DA's, who of course have bulletproof glass everywhere and our asses are swinging in the wind.

    Good review though...I like to see that they've done away with the weird morphing scene change effects.

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  2. Oh...nice work on the 7th place finish in the Blawgers league...you don't need to publish this comment if you're ashamed.

    Wait, I guess my 5th place wasn't much better. Dang.

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  3. I've watched a few of the episodes and taped the rest, so I'm planning to catch up. But I'm curious if they ever get any genuinely guilty clients who won't take any advice because God will work it all out. Because I understand that p.d.'s occasionally have to deal with those.

    I do like it, though, and am willing to give it a shot. But yeah, that dating relationship in the first episode was a real groaner.

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  4. Bobbie is from Brooklyn, not Philly.

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  5. Ooh, you're absolutely right. Bobbi from Brooklyn. Oops.

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  6. **********SPOILER RESPONSE - SORT OF*************

    But Bobbi also didn't say "Get the hell out of here, I'm calling security." Which, I think, is what I would've done. Maybe not. But I think I would have.

    Either way, I think there's some depth to the character, and I really like that. Go Bobbi.

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  7. I absolutely stood before a judge who on the record stated as one of the conditions for allowing a change of custody (of a 15 year old boy)stated that the child was no allowed to watch the television show "Raising the Bar." I had never witnessed a judge making such an order and had not watched the show so couldn't comment on his reasons for doing so. By the way this was reduced to a court order along with the directive for the mother to purchase metal garbage pail covers to be used as cymbals to wake the boy up each morning for school. Really....we can't make this stuff up.

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  8. i always sleep with the prosecutor assigned to my cases...

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  9. I'm an Pd in the mid-atlantic region. I have warmed up to the show. About the second or third episode in I definitely found some paralells with my own experiences.
    (But for God's sake, can someone get Jerry a REAL suit? Not all public defenders dress look like they just awoke from a two-day bender.)
    I've got to ask, why all the John Grisham clients? Where are the clients that curse and call their attorneys public pretenders? Where are the clients who tell Jerry, "I wanted a street lawyer/real lawyer, but I'm stuck with you." Maybe it varies, but where I work much of my job is trying to win the trust of a client who views all state-provided services as deficient--including the public defender. I spend countless hours at the jail convincing my client that I passed the bar and am in fact a "real" lawyer. I try to convince them that their cases will not be treated differently than a private attorney case. (and yes, I'm finding that I'm wrong on that more often than I care to admit.)
    Where are the clients that make us question why we do what we do? There are times when my ideals clash with the reality of representing the indigent accused. I'd love to see more of that.

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  10. As much as I admire Feige's effort, I don't see much about the show that bears any resemblance to life in the Bronx courthouse. David has said that he wants to project a less stereotyped view, but there's a reason for stereotypes. The alternative is a sanitized view, with the ocassional Hollywood liberties thrown in, which ends up in a show that is more soap opera than anything else.

    While I understand what David is trying to do, I haven't found that it captures either my interest or the reality of the trenches.

    By the way, in New York, defendant's call PDs "lemon aides," and 18b indigent defenders "pellicans". The private public defense contractors, like Bronx Defenders (where Feige worked before leaving to teach at Seton Hall), came about after the Legal Aid Society went on strike and was crushed.

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  11. In my courthouse, after you go through security, anyone can walk into our office (I'm a prosecutor). PD's do come in all the time to talk to us, but I agree, they don't bring muffins and coffee. The only reason I don't go into their office is they don't have one in our courthouse but somewhere else.

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  12. You hit the nail on the head for me. I have watched the first couple of episodes of the show, and the rest are saved on my DVR. I find myself not wanting to watch it, simply because it is way too much like what I do all day--and lately, my days have not been so much fun!!

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  13. Hi All,
    Thanks for the thoughts and comments. (And yes, Blonde, I have asked for and they should soon have an episode guide). As for the lack of overtly horrible and abusive clients, blame me. I have felt very strongly that what people have seen constantly on L&O are those guys, and that while they clearly exist and you'll be seeing a few here in there in future episodes, going there is first, a slippery slope toward stereotype, and second, less interesting than the deeper stories the majority of clients have to tell. Still, I understand well how they can ruin a day or week and that clients like that are not uncommon. Fear not, a second season looms.
    Thanks for watching, I'm always interested in considered feedback.
    Best,
    D.

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