October 28, 2002 12:00 PM

FOX (Mondays, 9 p.m. ET)

“Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.” That line from an ’80s shampoo commercial kept coming back to me as I watched the first two episodes (Oct.21 and 28) of the latest lawyer show from creator David E.Kelley (Ally McBeal, The Practice). I shouldn’t resent Lynne (Gretchen Mol), Sarah (Chyler Leigh) and Jeannie (Kathleen Robertson) for being highly attractive women in their 20s who share a cool San Francisco loft. These Stanford Law School mates are now associates in a high-powered firm where men dominate and the pressure is intense. I know it’s tough.

Still, something about this slick, verbally proficient drama strikes me as false. Maybe it’s those typically outlandish Kelley plot lines: the woman suing her doctor for “gynecological battery”—which propriety forbids me to explain here—or the alleged killer whose sexual obsession with counselor Lynne takes him to the end of his tether. Or maybe it’s the exaggerated haughtiness of senior partners Nicholas (Giancarlo Esposito) and Meredith (Lisa Banes). I know I wasn’t buying that part in the second episode where a sleepless Lynne phones a guy at 2:01 a.m. and says simply, “I need it,” prompting him to run right over and service her. If she weren’t blessed with beauty, she might have to ask him nicely.

girls club has its strong points, particularly Stacy Keach’s juicy guest-star turn as a disgraced ex-congressman in episode 2. But a lot of this material doesn’t seem to have come from Kelley’s top drawer.

Bottom Line: Surprisingly unconvincing case

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