ABC’s For the People is the newest Shondaland show — with a twist. It’s a legal drama that tells the story from both sides of the trial. It focuses on both the public defenders and assistant U.S. attorneys working in the U.S District Court for the Southern District of New York, AKA “The Mother Court.”
The formatting makes it so there are no clear good guys or bad guys in these cases; you get to empathize with each side as the young lawyers try to prove themselves.
If you are already a fan of Shonda Rhimes’ other shows you’ll probably like For the People. It has all of the elements of a classic Shondaland vehicle. However, the pilot episode lacks the star power of How to Get Away With Murder and Scandal, and the drama of Grey’s Anatomy.
Let’s look at what is working in “Pilot” and what isn’t.
If you like your Shondaland shows for their style, For the People will not disappoint. It’s fast paced, with snappy dialogue and a diverse cast of good looking characters who you know all have secrets just waiting to be uncovered. During their trials the lawyers deliver passionate speeches meant to sway not just the jury, but us watching at home.
Some of the best parts of any Shondaland show are the relationships between her female characters. While Meredith Grey and Cristina Yang remain the gold standard, For the People introduces us to roomies and fellow public defenders Sandra Bell (Britt Robinson) and Allison Adams (Jasmin Savoy Brown).
They met on the first day of law school and have been inseparable since. In the pilot episode we see them bonding together over their cases and Allison’s boyfriend trouble. There’s a classic girl talk on the bed moment, a friendly pep talk moment, and a “we got this moment” where the women decide they are both worthy enough to work in such a prestigious court.
Hopefully the rest of the season will continue to see their friendship grow in positive and supportive ways as they continue their careers.
Case For Improvement
While For the People is likable enough, there isn’t anything in the pilot episode that demands you watch more. It’s hard when you compare it to a show like How to Get Away With Murder which starts its pilot episode with law school students literally covering up a murder.
For the People is slower. There is surprisingly little drama. For the most part it focuses on the cases rather than the character’s personal lives. In fact, you learn very little about them at all by the time the episode is over, making it hard to feel a connection. The one standout is Susannah Flood as Kate Littlejohn, the whip-smart, highlighter-loving assistant U.S. attorney who breezes through her legal jargon-filled speeches with ease.
It’s only the first episode, so undoubtedly For the People will develop its characters more over time. But in the world of endless streaming options and peak TV, it’s hard to give shows like this a chance to grow.
For the People airs Tuesdays at 10 PM on ABC.