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What is it about movies or television shows that involve a lawyer defending the little guy? Why is it that we never root for the attorneys representing big business, yet we practically jump out of our movie theater seats to clap for the David-beating-Goliath lawyer, like Rudy Baylor, the character portrayed by Matt Damon played in the 1997 movie, The Rainmaker?
In that movie, based on a John Grisham novel, Baylor, a barely-out-of-law-school attorney (he actually takes the Bar exam after he’s taken on a landmark case) wins a monster case against a powerful law firm representing a monster insurance firm, Great Benefit Life Insurance.
We rooted for young Rudy Baylor because he uncovered the reckless behavior exhibited by higher-ups at Great Benefit Life Insurance, who ordered their employees to routinely deny every claim for benefits.
And just like we rooted for Rudy Baylor, we rooted for the title character in the biopic, Erin Brockovich (who was not a lawyer but a legal clerk, while working for a law firm, constructed a case against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, which led to a $333 million settlement, the largest ever paid in a direct action lawsuit in U.S. history.
It seems the average viewer wants the average Joe to succeed.
Who do lawyers root for when they watch these movies? It’s something I always wondered.
In the ABC dramedy, Eli Stone, the show’s title character is going through a life transformation of sorts. And that’s why those of us who watch the dramedy, are rooting for Stone, even though he once on the side we tend not to root for being that he was a highly ambitious corporate lawyer himself.
Stone, who is getting odd hallucinations due to his recently diagnosed brain aneurism (or the fact that he’s a prophet), once thrived on representing big business, the typical client of Wethersby, Posner & Klein, the San Francisco firm that he is employed by.
It appears that things are not so clear for Stone, who acts as if he’s not so sure if what he loves what he once stood for.
What makes this show unique is that he doesn’t up and quit the firm and start his own, or spend time in his off-hours representing the “little guy” or “victim” as Simon Baker’s character did in another legal drama that I once watched, The Guardian.
No, Stone is still working at the big firm, although he’s not always working with them.
In this past week’s episode (Feb. 28’s “One More Try”), “new Eli” gets to correct a case that “Old Eli” won five years ago using shady and questionable methods for a motor vehicle manufacturer. When the manufacturer settled, the lawyer representing the victim, is shocked that this is the same Eli Stone he battled in court the first time around.
And in the pilot episode, Eli ends up building a case that leads to a $5.2 settlement for his ex-girlfriend, who claimed her son developed autism because of the Mercuritol used in a flu vaccine given to him when he was two-years-old. The vaccine was manufactured by Beutel Pharmaceuticals, one of Wethersby, Posner & Klein’s biggest clients. Needless to say, Stone’s bosses weren’t exactly pleased.
We like to think that all corporate attorneys, knowing that their client is indeed in the wrong, would do something about it. But is that realistic?
Throughout the five years that I spent working as a newspaper reporter, I had the chance to meet many corporate attorneys representing large companies. Whenever they appeared in front of local boards, for example to represent a large developer, local residents would protest, saying they didn’t want any demolition going on in their neighborhood for fear of pollution. I remember this one resident pulling me aside to tell me that the city council and the corporate lawyers are “probably making deals in a smoky room” in the back of city hall.
I wonder how many people think that really goes on.
Yes, you read right, Eli Stone, the new hit legal drama-comedy (or dramedy, if you like) on ABC, features the music of George Michael in each episode. But that’s not why I started watching it. I mean, I like me some George Michael music of old (and let’s face it, there is no George Michael music of ‘new’,) but my guilty pleasure reasons for giving this show a shot had a lot to do with the fact that Jonny Lee Miller plays the main character, Eli Stone.
Miller, otherwise known as Angelina Jolie’s first husband and the actor that played heroin addicted “Sick Boy” in Trainspotting, has always been a favorite of mine. Plus, it helped that the writer’s strike was still in effect and I had had enough of reality shows such as Real Housewives of Orange County to count as my must-see television for the week. (Did I just blogmit that?)
Eli Stone features a fantastic cast, drama, comedy, interesting story lines (and legal cases). If you’re not watching it, here’s the background on what you are missing:
Eli Stone, the title character, is a hot shot attorney at a big-time San Fransciso law firm that has big business as its typical client and “the little guy” as its typical dinner fare.
For no reason that we know of yet, Stone begins getting odd hallucinations one day. But these aren’t your average hallucinations. They are loud, vivid, full of music — George Michael music — and more. In fact, his first hallucination featured George Michael himself, singing ”Faith,” in the middle of Stone’s apartment.
As the hallucinations become more common place, frequent and, er, embarassing (Stone reacts to his hallucinations no matter where he is, be it the law office or the courtroom), he turns to his brother, a neurologist named Nathan, played by Matt Letsher. Nathan runs some tests on Stone but finds nothing.
Stone then turns to one of my favorite characters on the show, Dr. Chen, a Chinese acupuncturist who starts out speaking with a heavy accent but, as Stone later discovers, fakes it in front of his clients because he thinks they find him to be more believable that way. Dr. Chen, who speaks with a surfer’s cadence, ends up being the “wise one” on the show as he helps Stone recall important memories from his past.
Scenes from Stone’s past come to us via short flashbacks, which is great because Stone’s dad is played by Tom Cavanagh, who played Ed in the popular NBC comedy-drama.
As Stone relays these memories to his brother, his doctor sibling remembers that their father had similar episodes in their youth and decides to run more tests. He discovers that Stone is suffering from an inoperable brain aneurysm that’s causing his illusions. That revelation means a lot to Stone and his brother as all this time they thought their dad acted that way only because he was a drunk. They now think he turned to the bottle as a way to quell his hallucinations.
Stone’s condition changes EVERYTHING. The once-solid relationship he had with his fiancee Taylor (played by the beautiful Natasha Henstridge) is up in the air; his trusty secretary (played by the brilliant Loretta Divine) wonders if her boss has gone batty and the firm’s top attorney, and Stone’s would-be father-in-law, Jordan Weathersby (played by the Emmy-winning Victor Garber of Alias) also wonders what is going on with one Stone, who in addition to dating his daughter, was one of his firm’s most reliable and shark-like attorneys.
Stone returns to Dr. Chen, tells him about his condition, only for Dr. Chen to tell him that maybe, the hallucinations mean he is a prophet. And being that each hallucination is related to cases that Stone takes, or is inspired to take on, Dr. Chen could be right. But that’s not all, our once-sharklike lawyer could be changing his life around.
This show has just begun and I can tell it’s going to be a success.
I plan to check in regularly to blog about Eli Stone. The legal cases are interesting and I haven’t even gotten to that yet.