April 02, 2001 12:00 PM

NBC (Mondays, 9 p.m. ET)

Ally McBeal Lite. That was my first impression of this one-hour dramedy about five eager young associates at a San Francisco law firm. Riley (Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Sidney’s daughter) and Egg (James Roday) have already been made partners—in bed, that is. Meanwhile colleagues Anna (American Psycho’s Samantha Mathis) and Miles (Ken Marino) are rekindling their earlier office affair; and all but Anna are housemates of openly gay Warren (Mackenzie Astin). Friends Esq.—that was my second take on this crowd. No time for Central Perk, however. They banter about their sex lives while rushing off to work. Indeed the March 19 opener focused more on panties than legal briefs, and the caseload seemed just as skimpy: One suit was an interracial adoption battle with a tearjerker finale; the other an attempt by the associates’ callow superior Sam O’Donnell (Eric Schaeffer) to sue the cad who left O’Donnell’s alimony-hungry ex-wife stranded at the altar.

But the March 26 episode smartly gets down to business as a feisty young plaintiff (Party of Five’s Scott Grimes) dying of cancer induced by a reputed wonder drug endears himself to the legal eaglets. They in turn display insightful flashes of depth and feeling—a sign of this series’ potential.

Bottom Line: Could win on appeal

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