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Raising the Bar
Raising The Bar is a Courtroom Drama from Steven Bochco, which started its first season on TNT in summer 2008. It follows a group of friends from law school who, despite taking different paths (two of them are prosecutors, two are public defenders and one is the secretary of a judge) have kept in touch and, at least outside the courtroom, maintain a relatively friendly relationship.

The first season took a while to find its identity but wound up being largely about the antagonistic relationship between main character Jerry Kellerman (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) and Judge Trudy Kessler (Jane Kaczmarek). The second season is giving the other characters more screen time and development, and moving away from the "This City Only Has One Judge" theme by adding two more characters in robes. With the first utterance of the word "bullshit" in the last episode, it's also looking much more like a Bochco series than it did in the first season, which managed, despite being on cable, to be tame compared to NYPD Blue.


This series provides examples of:

  • Amoral Attorney: Michelle stoops to some pretty low tactics to win including getting a key defence witness deported and not informing the defence about the death of a complainant and key witness before offering a deal. Her boss Balco himself comes across as this at times.
  • Bald of Awesome: Marcus.
  • Battle of Wits: Very often.
  • Benevolent Boss: Roz.
  • Black Boss Lady: Roz again.
  • Big Damn Kiss: Season 1 finale, between Jerry and Bobbi.
  • Big Applesauce: Pretty much a Signature Style for Bochco by now.
  • Black and Gray Morality: Many of the cases are shown from both the prosecution and defence perspectives, with both sides having a point.
  • Brainy Brunette: Bobbi.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Jerry is the closest to it, but gets called out on it and is even held in contempt of court a couple of times.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Averted.
  • Courtroom Antic: Plenty of them, done by both sides. The judges get in on the action with antics of their own that would probably get them kicked off the bench in Real Life, too.
    • Um, in this case, Reality Is Unrealistic. In most states, getting a judge removed from the bench is almost insurmountably difficult, even in cases of flagrant and clear malfeasance. Judges in general tend to be known as quirky at best and tyrannical at worst.
  • Dating Catwoman: Jerry and Michelle early in the first season. More platonically, the entire group when they go for a drink after work.
  • Dirty Cop: Fabricating evidence, lying to the jury, keeping Jerry from his client...Det. Porter is the epitome of one.
  • Driven to Suicide: Gavin tries to make Bobbi feel like she drove him to hang himself.
  • Establishing Character Moment: When Michelle responds to Nick's flirting/sexual harassment by propositioning him there and then. Establishes her character as someone who refuses to be intimidated, and does not necessarily play by the rules.
  • Fanservice: Bobbi tends to wear very tight tops. Justified in that she's got a lot to show off.
    • In her very first episode, Jerry and the viewers get to check her out walking away down the corridor.
    • Jerry spends a fair amount of time taking his shirt off, putting it on and just generally being shirtless in one episode. Bobbi appreciates it.
  • Gayngst: Charlie. He comes out right at the end of season 1.
  • Good Lawyers, Good Clients: Averted. Jerry has to defend a child-rapist at one point.
  • Granola Girl: Jerry is a Granola Guy, in many aspects.
  • Green-Eyed Epiphany: Bobbi pushes Jerry away a few times before finally wising up and acting on her feelings after she senses an attraction between him and an attractive professor he brings in as an expert witness.
  • Handsome Lech: Nick flirts with every attractive woman he meets, including Michelle who works for him.
  • Hello, Attorney!: All of them, but Michelle and Bobbi in particular.
  • Ho Yay: Farnsworth and Charlie do quite a bit of flirting. Since they're both actually gay, Shipping is a likely probability.
  • Jerkass: Balco, most of the judges and a few of the clients. Gavin and Detective Porter are the worst, though.
    • Radley, the ADA prosecuting against Bobbi is one of the biggest. Even Balco takes satisfaction in Jerry punching him.
  • The Judge: Kessler. Moves into Hanging Judge territory quite often. There are others but she's the main one.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Kessler doesn't get punished nearly enough for rather blatant corruption in the last two episodes.
    • Det. Porter, who gets away with fabricating evidence, perjury and possible negligent manslaughter. His only punishment is seen to be getting dumped.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Jerry's long, unkempt hair was criticized by viewers and professional TV critics alike in the first season... when he got a much shorter haircut in the second-season opener, the other characters took notice and made a few offhanded comments about it.
  • Large Ham: John Michael Higgins (Judge Farnsworth) is becoming a master of this trope. If he talked a little louder, he might even surpass BRIAN BLESSED.
  • Non-Idle Rich: Richard Woolsley. His wealth is recurring plot point.
  • Pet the Dog: The prosecutors are routinely given moments that suggest they're not really bad guys, they're just doing their jobs. Judge Kessler, however, doesn't do this nearly often enough.
  • Screwed by the Network: The show went on a long hiatus after summer 2009, then returned Christmas Eve 2009 to air three new episodes, the last of which was the series finale. Christmas Eve? What were they thinking?
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: Jerry's default setting. Other characters occasionally excuse their Courtroom Antics in this way as well.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Despite being a public defender, Richard is descended from a very wealthy family and uses his trust fund to help his clients out, occasionally doing so in morally ambiguous ways.
  • Sexual Extortion: Implied in "Trout Fishing" as Balco and Troutman have sex in order for her client to get a better deal.
  • Signature Style: As mentioned above, pretty much all of Bochco's work is set in New York now. Also, the jittery exterior shots each time they come back from commercial look a lot like the ones on NYPD Blue.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Gavin got pretty scary before his suicide by hanging.
  • Toplessness from the Back: Michelle getting out of the shower in an early first-season episode.
  • What Does She See in Him?: Bobbi and her Jerkass ex-husband Gavin. Invoked by Bobbi herself, who calls her marriage a mistake.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Jerry is a subversion of the trope. He is an idealist, but his idealism is a flaw that colors his relationships and leads him into trouble with the people he works with and against. Also subverted in that he thinks the legal procedure is often inhumane and he does not trust the system and corruption it can engender.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Every time Jerry and Bobbi look set to get together, something crops up to get in their way such as her divorce, her ex's suicide. Eventually, they do.
  • Working with the Ex:
    • Jerry and Michelle.
    • Charlie and Kessler.

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