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Hmm, I Wonder Why This Show Never Went Anywhere:
Over at Greedy Clerks, AWC wonders whatever happened to "Supreme Courtships," a planned TV show on Fox described as "a look at the personal and professional lives of six Supreme Court clerks." It seems that a pilot of the show was made but never shown. Why not?

  Thanks to the power of the Volokh Conspiracy, I've been able to get my hands on a top-secret synopsis of the pilot show:
Sally finishes her cert pool memos, recommending all "DENY" as usual. At lunch a heated debate breaks out in the law clerk dining room over who should win American Idol. Joe then tackles the briefs in an ERISA case for several hours before the Justice calls and wants to know the name of a tax case he wrote for the Second Circuit back in the late 90s. Then it's on to planning the Thursday law clerk happy hour -- barbeque this time. But will it be as good as the JPS clerks' happy hour last month? And what if it rains?
This is obviously pretty exciting stuff, so I assume it wasn't the plot line that kept the show from airing.
Brenster:
So I dated Camille Guaty when I was a 1L, about five years ago (right after Popstars). Good times.
5.1.2008 1:20am
ifoughtthelaw (mail) (www):
I managed to get my hands on a copy of the real script for the pilot last year, and it was horrible bordering on offensive. I won't provide a detailed synopsis, but here are a few key points:

(1) a moderate female clerk in a love triangle between an ultra-liberal clerk and an arch-conservative clerk;

(2) said moderate female clerk becoming *teen pregnant* and not knowing whether the father is the liberal or the conservative (happens all the time at One First Street, right?);

(3) the pregnancy kerfuffle playing out against the backdrop of a big abortion case pending before the Justices;

(4) a conniving, pretentious, extremely unlikable Justice who is unabashedly modeled after Antonin Scalia (or, I should said, the popular conception of Antonin Scalia);

(5) a wishy-washy female swing justice who can't decide how to vote on the abortion case because she feels bad about never having had kids because she always put her career first, and who by the way, is also having an affair with her male clerk;

(6) a go-getter clerk who begins every day with a grueling run followed by pills and vodka;

(7) a wise-cracking black libertarian clerk who is somehow able to easily insert himself into the pants of any unsuspecting female simply by befuddling her with unassailable libertarian logic.

Those are a few of the many, many reasons why the show never went anywhere. That and it was a horrible idea for a show in the first place.
5.1.2008 1:32am
BruceM (mail) (www):
ifoughtthelaw: considering how horrendous TV is these days, I honestly can't tell if you're being serious or making a joke about the premise of the show.
5.1.2008 1:42am
George Weiss (mail) (www):
i hope he is being serious. that kind of show (if indeed like the way ifoughtthelaw described it) would be worse for the American public than any obscene language, sexually explicit content or vulgar satire such as family guy.

not that i think that this means the gov would have a right to force them not to make the show....just that maybe the executive have some standards.

i also don't agree with orin that the shows focus was obviously interesting. Its certainly interesting to Orin, (who-for those who don't know-was a scotus clerk himself)

but, clerking is really an extension of law school. And you don't see shows out there about law school-you see shows about lawyers.

what about med student shows?

med school shows are really doctor shows-because you never see them in class-they are always residents/interns etc...and they usually have lots of discretion they exercise medically to make the character development flow. clerks (as i understand it) have very little discretion.
5.1.2008 2:07am
Dave N (mail):
BruceM,

I couldn't tell either--but as horrible as that show sounds, it beats 99% of the crap the networks have scheduled on prime time.
5.1.2008 2:09am
X:
The publicity photo is dated 27 March 2008 — barely over a month ago, so I wouldn't be so sure the show is actually dead yet. And word has it that ABC is still working on a show modeled after Tom Goldstein.
5.1.2008 2:11am
JB:
A supreme court clerk? Teen pregnant? WTF?
5.1.2008 2:19am
ifoughtthelaw (mail) (www):
I was being serious. A friend in who's plugged into the TV industry got me a copy of the script. Everything I said was accurate, sadly, though of course the script has probably been through countless revisions by now.
5.1.2008 2:19am
FC:
But this show, which I have renamed "Dirty Sexy SCOTUS," would at least burst the sacerdotal bubble that surrounds the Court.
5.1.2008 2:21am
OrinKerr:
Thanks for the comment, IFTL. Very interesting, albeit, as you say, disturbing.
5.1.2008 2:25am
lpcowboy (mail):
I got one of those nielson mailings the other day and sent it back basically saying network tv isn't any good.
5.1.2008 3:06am
I'm not the Solicitor General, but I play one on TV.:
Limited premise imo. Instead of such a narrow focus the show should also cover the SC bar, SC practitioners, and the Solicitor General's office. Make the DOJ real sexy.
5.1.2008 6:15am
Brian Mac:

i also don't agree with orin that the shows focus was obviously interesting.

I'd guessed he was being sarcastic.
5.1.2008 7:30am
Wise-Cracking Black Libertarian (mail):
(7) a wise-cracking black libertarian clerk who is somehow able to easily insert himself into the pants of any unsuspecting female simply by befuddling her with unassailable libertarian logic.

This show sounds excellent.
5.1.2008 8:58am
Alan Gunn (mail):
I've always wondered whether many people go to law school because they think what they see on TV lawyer shows is real. I spend a lot of time in juvenile court--mostly standing in the hall waiting for my case to be called--and I suspect that a couple of days of that for prospective litigators might affect law school applications a lot. Maybe a TV show showing lawyers working in law libraries for days on end would have an effect, too. Surveys show that lots of lawyers are unhappy with their career choice; maybe a dose of pre-law realism would help.

As for me, I went to law school because I read an article about Bishop James Pike (a famous guy in the '50s), who was a lawyer before he went into the ministry. He said he quit the law because he got bored with sitting around discussing whether a sentence needed a comma in a particular place. That sounded like my idea of fun.
5.1.2008 9:26am
Elmer:
OTOH, that show in A Mighty Wind about the SC justices who were all roommates looked pretty good.
5.1.2008 9:27am
Anderson (mail):
When I was a grad student, I was convinced that a sitcom about slacker grad student/teaching assistants had some promise.

Not entirely sure now why I thought that.
5.1.2008 10:05am
Alan P (mail):

I've always wondered whether many people go to law school because they think what they see on TV lawyer shows is real.


Ok, I went to law school because of "the Defenders" which, if I am not dating myself was a really fine show in the late 50's and early 60's. Of course, I have not seen even repeats since then so perhaps the show was not as good as I remember.

I am curious how many people were influenced by any of the law shows over the years and which ones they were.
5.1.2008 10:31am
common sense (www):
This reminds me of when some network made a pilot about life at West Point, written by the person who did Dr. Quin(sp?). Very few people's day to day life is really that interesting without more context that a TV show can present, no matter how romanticized people on the outside make it. The writers have to spice it up to get a new plot line for every week, and that ends up stretching the premise too far--the writer is trapped between having a boring show and having a show that is so detached from reality as the premise doesn't matter anymore.
5.1.2008 10:43am
LarryA (mail) (www):
And you don't see shows out there about law school-you see shows about lawyers.
The Paper Chase? One season on CBS, rebroadcast on PBS, three seasons on Showtime. Moderate (for TV) success.

I'd mention Legally Blond 1&2, but I have hope they won't make it to TV series.
A supreme court clerk? Teen pregnant? WTF?
Hollywood portrays the legal profession with the same accuracy as it does car chases and shootouts.
When I was a grad student, I was convinced that a sitcom about slacker grad student/teaching assistants had some promise. Not entirely sure now why I thought that.
How many movies are there about people making a movie? Write what you know.
I am curious how many people were influenced by any of the law shows over the years and which ones they were.
Perry Mason. But I didn't go to law school. The closest I get is teaching the legal part of the Texas concealed handgun license class. I guess Have Gun, Will Travel et al won out.
5.1.2008 10:48am
Joe Bingham (mail):
can I take this opportunity to point out that Linus Roache on Law and Order is the coolest lawyer ever? Last night, a defense attorney spent the trial convincing the jury that a cult would ruin their lives if they found the defendent guilty. So Linus pretended to be a member of a cult to scare the defendant into taking a plea bargain. Ha!
5.1.2008 11:02am
David M. Nieporent (www):
I am curious how many people were influenced by any of the law shows over the years and which ones they were.
Back when I was in college, the conventional wisdom was that L.A. Law was turning a lot of people on to law school.
5.1.2008 11:06am
DJR:
I don't think I was influenced by law shows to go to law school, but I was a huge fan of The Practice before I started law school. The more I learned, the more the show made me angry about how the law was portrayed, until finally I could not watch it.

The "jump the briefcase" moment was when a client of the firm pulled out a gun during a divorce negotiation and shot his spouse. His lawyers continued to represent him in the murder trial and claimed that attorney-client privilege prevented them from testifying as witnesses. It was wrong on so many levels.

Curiously, I think the VC is approaching a briefcase moment, with Eugene's new obsession with underage sex and the other posters' obsession with Rev. Wright, this site (Kerr excepted) is becoming unreadable. Bring back orinkerr.com!
5.1.2008 11:06am
Joe Bingham (mail):
Shows didn't made me interested in law school, but Law &Order + Prof. Kerr's pitches = me more interested in criminal law.
5.1.2008 11:11am
alias:
DJR, if I remember correctly, every 9-12 months or so, EV will have a post where he examines a social taboo using logic, and it often provokes some strange reactions. I find it interesting or, at least, amusing.

On the Rev. Wright thing, I think almost all blogs become "unreadable" during election season. This election season's especially bad because there's a law professor running. It'll get worse, then it'll get better. In the meantime, if anyone annoys you in particular, there's always select-a-blogger
5.1.2008 11:17am
JosephSlater (mail):
Dang, Elmer beat me to the show-inside-a-show in "A Mighty Wind."
5.1.2008 11:24am
Anderson (mail):
In the meantime, if anyone annoys you in particular, there's always select-a-blogger

Or expel-a-blogger, which however I've never been able to get to work.

Anyway, no one at the VC fails to be worth reading on *some* topics. It's just that some have particularly tiresome hobbyhorses.

I suppose it would be like if I were a VC blogger; most readers would figure out to skip anything with the word "torture" in it ....
5.1.2008 11:27am
Ben P (mail):

This election season's especially bad because there's a law professor running.


Technically there's two law professors running.

Obama was a constitutional law lecturer at Northwestern for several before moving into politics full time. (which I assume is the one you were referring too)

Hillary Clinton taught Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure and something called "The Prisons Project" at the University of Arkansas Law School for two years. (In this same time period Bill Clinton was teaching Admiralty law, International Trade , and I believe constitutional law while attempting to get elected to congress for the first time, which he lost)

Then they both left Arkansas law school when he got elected Attorney General of Arkansas and She took a position at the Rose Law firm.
5.1.2008 11:58am
Chicken Little:
They should make it a reality show!
5.1.2008 12:19pm
jp2 (mail):
The sketch above sounds a lot like the short-lived show from 2000(?) in which James Garner played the chief justice. It was inexpressibly awful.
5.1.2008 12:32pm
alias:
Anyway, no one at the VC fails to be worth reading on *some* topics. It's just that some have particularly tiresome hobbyhorses.

True, but the *some* topics aren't of interest to everyone, and some bloggers have a greater percentage of tiresome hobbyhorse posts than others.

Or expel-a-blogger, which however I've never been able to get to work

Really? Works fine for me, though it took a few tries. One hint is to drop the capital letters. Also, regardless of whether you're selecting or expelling, Adler is still "jnov"
5.1.2008 12:36pm
alias:
IFTL, that sounds like a soap opera. The formula seems to be: (1) take popular conception of Supreme Court, (2) make everyone involved either evil, slutty, or both.

Now if they did a sitcom instead of a drama, and the writers of The Office took a crack at it, it might not be that bad... disgruntled IT guy messes with Microsoft's autocorrect, opinion goes out to public with "Article III" replaced with "Wu-Tang, m*****f***ing"... I don't know. It could work.
5.1.2008 12:45pm
Terrivus:
And don't forget about the possible Bong Hits 4 Jesus movie.

I wish I were making this up.
5.1.2008 12:47pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
My idea for a plot would be a law school, primarily about the faculty. They have plenty of time and energy for dalliances, and the politics of academia are legion. Its probably not supposed to happen, but there at least used to be some sexual relationships between faculty and (adult) students. I somehow remember one of my LS profs having been married to three of his ex students, and another one doing divorces for his favorite female students. And, you could throw in a bit of high stakes court drama, since LS profs only (not really but) get involved in the biggest cases.

Yeh, I know. Paper Chase. But wasn't it mostly from the point of view of the students?
5.1.2008 1:03pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I will admit that the reason that I was not disappointed in the practice of law was that my father and many of his friends were lawyers, judges, etc. So, I knew how boring it could be in real life. I do think though that many people get into the field for the wrong reasons, engendered by the depiction of lawyers on TV.
5.1.2008 1:06pm
Wayne Jarvis:

And don't forget about the possible Bong Hits 4 Jesus movie.

I wish I were making this up.



This all wrong. It's supposed to be "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" the broadway play featuring hit songs from The Carpenters. Then Hollywood is supposed to adapt the musical for the big screen starring Louis Gossett Jr in a fat suit.
5.1.2008 1:28pm
ifoughtthelaw (mail) (www):
To clarify, the pregnant law clerk (who turns out not to be pregnant after all in a glorious Deus Ex Machina moment designed to keep the show focused on sex rather than the consequences of sex) is not a teenager. I used the term "teen pregnant" because the plotline plays out exactly as it would on an after-school special about a pregnant teenager. I picked up the term from this image, which is work safe as far as I'm concerned but possibly offensive.

A few years ago Bravo (or some other low-rent cable station) had a reality show where they invited people to submit scripts for sitcom pilots, selected the two best ones, had the two writers produce their respective pilots, and picked the best one, with the idea that the winner would be given the chance to launch the pilot as a series. I began writing a sitcom about law school in order to enter the contest, but failed to finish it because law school isn't funny. Fortunately I don't think anyone actually watched the Bravo show.
5.1.2008 1:35pm
Ted Frank (www):
Wasn't Alicia Witt in a TV series about Supreme Court clerks that lasted two or three episodes before being canceled?

I saw the pilot for "In the Shadow of the Law," which was sadly abysmal, even though it had Wash from Firefly playing the Supreme Court clerk.
5.1.2008 4:07pm
Vernunft (mail) (www):
They'll make this derivative work as soon as the copyright expires on First Monday.
5.1.2008 6:00pm
AndrewK (mail):
A Supreme Court television show would be great, except for how narrow that pilot sounds. I think a SCOTUS show would probably fail if it were a sitcom... people "still" have a lot of respect for the institution (outside of law schools). A drama would fail for narrow subject matter if it were simply on the lives of the clerks and judges.

You can't quite pull a West Wing for SCOTUS, so I'm curious what format people think would succeed. A sitcom might work for something like a small-town elected judge and aspirations of grandeur in a sort of Spin City-esque way, but SCOTUS is HARD. I can't think of a format that wouldn't be incredibly dull or incredibly short-lived. I mean, unless you got Gary Busey as Chief Justice.
5.1.2008 9:52pm
Vernunft (mail) (www):
First Monday. Look it up. If only someone had mentioned this before in this comment thread.
5.1.2008 11:34pm
Gaius Marius:
The only way this show could be funny is if Max Tucker was one of the SCOTUS clerks.
5.1.2008 11:40pm
Gaius Marius:
Whoop! I meant to type "Tucker Max" instead of "Max Tucker."
5.2.2008 12:00am
SenatorX (mail):
I couldn't watch that show but I could read ifoughtthelaw comments all day long. Falcon Punch!!!
5.2.2008 12:48am
MontgomeryCliff:
I like the idea, but how about having 21 justices on the new show, but one voted off by viewers every couple weeks (and 2 in sweeps). Start with new justices next season.

Also, one would be the former President (POTUS@SCOTUS) so you could have West Wing style flashbacks coupled with the occasional attempted coup (sweeps; cliff hanger).

Damn, I should have gone into TV.

Or how about this: just keep running famous/popular/hot people through in cameos as the Justices. Who cares if, after a season, you have shown 30 different people as justices, most people don't know how many there are anyway. Every week a surprise Justice!

Call me, we'll have lunch.
5.2.2008 8:10am
Roger Sweeny (mail):
I used to tell my kids that I couldn't watch "Boston Public" because it was too realistic and I wanted some escapism when I got home from teaching school. Fortunately, they had better sarcasm detectors than George Weiss.
5.3.2008 11:35am
George Weiss (mail) (www):
roger-

did your kids see your comment on a blog post authored by a person they had never met in person before..just curioius.

or are you being sarcastic now?

(yes this is sarcasim)
5.4.2008 2:59am