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If you haven't heard, Shonda Rhimes, the artist behind "Grey's Anatomy," "Private Practice," and "Scandal," just came out with a law school/legal defense drama: "How To Get Away With Murder." It was the most intrigiuing of our Fall TV/Legal Drama Preview.
It's 1L year. Professor
Kingsfield Keating is teaching Criminal Law, or as she likes to call it, "How To Get Away With Murder"! And instead of sticking to the boring Socratic Method, she's going for experiential learning. The best of her 879 (estimated) students will get to work for her criminal defense firm. And, of course, there's a murder case for the first episode.
How does the show stack up in terms of 1L year, real-life law, and Hollywood screenwriting tricks? (Spoilers to follow. Also, some of this will only make sense if you watch the show.)
Law School LOL
This is the experiential learning overhaul legal ed. critics have been calling for! Keating Socratizes the kids for about 15 seconds, including a tense showdown with baby-faced Wes, who admits that he is a wait-list admittee and hasn't yet done the reading! (Gasps and laughter!) After that? It's a field trip to a murder defense client's house! Don't expect any "Paper Chase"-style accuracy here -- it's Shondaland, after all.
Full disclosure: Much to my chagrin, I've never defended a guilty murderer. But still, some of this stuff is just hilarious.
First of all: the field trip. I know privilege typically extends to support staff, but 325 1Ls? That's a lot of third-party disclosure if it doesn't. Risky, risky, risky. And what client is going to sign off on this little teaching opportunity?
From the beginning, you are set up to like Wait-List Wes. WLW is baby-faced, shy but friendly, and definitely not a gunner. He might be the "sincere scholar" of the class. He's also the one person who doesn't compromise his ethics or gun away in class -- except the whole murder/burn the body thing in the flash-forward sequences. And even then, he's being all democratic about it -- "We'll only burn this gas-soaked body if everyone here agrees!"
Also, in Hollywood, there's a classic screenwriting trick to making you like a character: the "Save the Cat" moment. The character does something noble, like saving a cat from an oncoming car, which -- boom -- makes you like him. Here, WLW checked in on his grumpy, goth, domestic violence victim neighbor (Rebecca) after the jock archetype character breaks things.
Finally, because this is a Shondaland production, there's going to be lots of sex. Prof. is already sleeping with a detective and her husband (presumably). Husband may be sleeping with his psych. student and one of Keating's associate attorneys, who gave Keating a nasty look for kissing her own husband. Students are all eyeballing each other. Connor already had the fling with the IT guy. And Rebecca (goth-neighbor-victim) is going to sleep with WLW -- calling it now.