You’re sitting in a bar and the man next to you is the creator of Shonda Rhimes’ new TV series, and in this setting it’s the creator’s job to convince you that his legal drama is different.
“The main thing is it’s told from both the perspective of the prosecution and the defense,” said, Paul Davies, the creator of the new ABC series “For the People” which debuts at 9 p.m. March 13 on ABC. “It’s not one point of view. I am trying to show, in an entertaining way, how justice is made. It’s set in a federal court, which is different than a normal courtroom setting.
"A federal court looks and sounds different. It has different cases than a typical diet of murder and assault. There is a different palette. Now... I’m sure the guy at the bar has left the conversation.”
Forgive Davies if he errs to the side of self-deprecation (family trait), because on paper there is a better than good chance that “For The People” is a winner.
Rhimes doesn’t miss, and Davies is not some dummy who is creating a legal show based on jargon he learned watching "Law & Order" or any other Dick Wolf courtroom drama.
“For the People” is set in the Southern District of New York and follows six attorneys who work on opposing sides of a given case.
The cast is composed of mostly fresher faces you may recognize from another TV show or two, but there is no one dominant headliner; Britt Robertson, Hope Davis and Anna Deavere Smith have longer résumés than some of their fellow cast members.
Much like an Aaron Sorkin flick, "For the People" has the unmistakable tenor and pitch of Rhimes’ other successes, most famously “Grey’s Anatomy,” a show so successful that it may never actually end. “For the People” is quick-witted and paced to run like a 22-minute show that actually lasts 42 minutes.
Decades before he became a writer for the TV show “Scandal,” Davies was a successful attorney at a large firm in Los Angeles. Repeatedly, the firm tried to lure Davies to be a partner (How do I know this? Davies is my cousin).
He could have made a lot of money as a corporate attorney, but he passed at every overture. Writing scripts was his ambition since he was a teenager.
Davies, 48, who earned his law degree from Stanford and his doctorate in history from Cal-Berkely on the same weekend, spent one summer as a clerk for a federal judge in L.A. A portion of “For the People” is based on his experiences both as a corporate attorney and as a clerk.
After he signed on as a writer for “Scandal,” he pitched an idea to Rhimes about a law drama set in a federal court.
“I really wasn’t interested in doing a legal show, per se,” said Davies, who is also an executive producer. “The group of lawyers I went to school with who had the highest degree of career satisfaction were the public defenders and prosecutors. Most surveys of lawyers indicate this, too. It’s an area of law where people, who do have their issues, they are happiest because the work they are doing matters.
“No disrespect to big firm litigators, but the stakes aren’t as meaningful. It’s Big Company A suing Big Company B. When you’re a public defendant in this setting, you are defending a client. That matters tremendously to the lawyers. And it’s an area of the law I have a tremendous respect for.”
Davies politely calls "For the People" an "underdog" because of its Tuesday night slot, a locale where Grey's began its long run.
It's a show likely to find an audience, including the guy in the bar.
For the People
- 9 p.m. Tuesdays
- WFAA/Channel 8