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TV Series Review

In the tradition of fellow CBS legal dramas Judging Amy and Family Law, The Guardian converts newspaper headlines into prime-time drama. Deadbeat dads. Negligent moms. Incest. Rape. Abandonment. Abuse. The twist here is that Nick Fallin (Simon Baker) is a fast-track corporate attorney doing community service for using illegal drugs. He’s sentenced to 1,500 hours of child advocacy. That means he’s "slumming it" at a Pittsburgh clinic defending the rights and wishes of children who’ve been handed a raw deal in life. Much to his surprise, Nick gets as much back from his service as he puts into it.

The Guardian spends more than the obligatory amount of time pointing out that one’s career will only be rewarding if it is done for the right reasons. Nick’s parallel lives of corporate lawyer and child guardian are contrasted at every turn. And greed always loses out to helping others.

Another Guardian plus is its thoughtful attention to issues such as racism. Modeling forgiveness and understanding, one story line condemned lashing out at Arab-Americans because of the war in Afghanistan.

Pick any episode out of the pack and one might brand Nick a saint. Pick another and scalawag might be more appropriate. At one point fans learn he’s been carrying on a sexual fling with a married woman. Twice he’s shown with her in a hotel room. He breaks it off, not because of any guilt over adultery, but because he’ll soon be her boss and doesn’t want their professional relationship to be jeopardized by their sexual one. Nary a word is spoken about the moral implications of their actions or the untold damage their indiscretion is doing to the woman’s marriage.

Nick also continues to battle an addiction to cocaine. Thankfully, illegal drugs are never glamorized, but legal vices—such as alcohol and cigarettes—are. Nick and Co. drink hard liquor to the point of drunkenness, and his father smokes cigarettes. Foul language is usually less of an issue, but mild profanities creep in each week.

Nick’s father, with whom he shares a tumultuous relationship, has drilled into his son’s head the importance of wisdom and virtue. But Nick can’t for the life of him see those ideals in his dad. The Guardian is much the same way. It gives a good pep talk, but doesn’t always take its own advice.

Episodes Reviewed: Nov. 27, Dec. 11, 18, 2001, Jan. 8, 22, 2002

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Steven Isaac

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