After her divorce, attorney Amy Gray and her young daughter move back into her mother's house in Hartford, Connecticut, and Amy becomes a family court judge. Amy's mother Maxine is a social worker who holds herself, as well as everyone else — especially Amy — to her perfectionist standards. Since Amy is a family court judge and Maxine is a social worker, they occasionally cross paths professionally, sometimes creating discord that spills over into their personal relationship. Amy and Maxine are both single and interested in romance. Amy's introspective, younger brother is a writer, while her older brother, an insurance salesman, and his neurotic wife frequently drop by. This show is about as complex as it gets without being a Mind Screw
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This show has examples of:
- Abusive Parents: A huge part of Maxine's job, and these pop up in Amy's courtroom.
- Adorkable: Maxine and Amy when they're flustered by the attention of the opposite sex... which leads Amy once to declare that she is done with men. ...it doesn't stick.
- Asshole Victim: The creep stalking Amy that ended up being killed by Sean's foster kid in defense of the Grays.
- Black Best Friend: Bruce.
- Byronic Hero: David Mac Claren carries shades of this at first, with the tragedy of his wife's death and the whole Tall, Dark and Handsome thing.
- Courtroom Drama
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Dr. Lily Redekker.
- Disappeared Dad: The patriarch of the Gray family died several years previous to the pilot, and Lauren's father sometimes ventures into this territory.
- Disproportionate Retribution: In one episode, a boy was brought in to Amy's court after calling in a bomb threat at school. However, his father was a soldier and he was born in Afghanistan. Since citizenship is passed through the mother, he is officially an illegal Afghani immigrant and could be deported if convicted of a felony. Later, in a Loophole Abuse filled conversation about a theoretical boy from "Sweden," she is told that if he is deported back to "Sweden" with no family or support system, he'll likely be placed in the military. All because he wanted to get out of a test. Amy takes a third option by sentencing to probation for 364 days, since only sentences of over a year are required to be reported.
- Emotional Torque: The whole darn series. It doesn't screw so much with your brain as it does your emotions.
- Epunymous Title
- Everyone Can See It: Lily and Kyle.
- Genius Ditz: Donna
- Good Is Not Nice: Maxine, at times.
- Hypercompetent Sidekick (Donna, then Holbrook in season 6)
- Important Haircut: Maxine has one of these.
- It Runs in the Family: That perfectionist streak.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Maxine really comes across as this, at times, as do her boss, Sean, and her nephew, Kyle.
- Kids Are Cruel: Invoked often with Lauren's classmates.
- Long Runner
- Love Makes You Crazy: Oh, Kyle...
- Not So Different: Amy and Maxine seem often to be at war with each other, but...
- Power Trio: Amy as The Kirk, Bruce as The Spock, and Donna as The McCoy.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Amy as a judge. Maxine once encourages a lawyer to stick with Amy rather than seek out another judge as she will be sure to rule a fair verdict.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Amy employs these regularly in putting down unruly lawyers and the like in court.
- Replacement Goldfish: Vincent explains to Kyle that he's made him that for the Gray women.
- Parents as People: Maxine and Amy, full stop.
- Passive-Aggressive Kombat: Wow... take your pick. Maxine vs. Kimberly, however, probably takes the cake.
- Screaming Birth: Donna.
- Ship Tease: The kiss Amy and Bruce share in the interim of not being coworkers.
- When Vincent is at home sick one day, he watches Soylent Green.
- Amy rents The Sound of Music for Lauren's sleepover and ends up discussing one scene and watching it with Maxine.
- Snark-to-Snark Combat: The Gray family is good at this.
- Socially Awkward Heroine: Amy, as lampshaded jokingly by David: "No, it's because you're crazy."
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute (Vincent, then Kyle, then Vincent again).
- Tall, Dark and Snarky: Bruce.
- The Resenter: Gillian gets definite shades of this.
- Traumatic C-Section: Gillian undergoes this.
- The Unfavorite: Several cases of Amy's deal with this. In the Gray family, however, Peter seems to fill the role.
- Wedding Day: Amy and Stu's wedding episode... which ends heart-wrenchingly.