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 gave the other characters more screen time and development, and moved 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 also looked 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 defense witness deported and not informing the defense about the death of a complainant and key witness before offering a deal. Her boss Balco himself comes across like this at times.
- Black-and-Gray Morality: Many of the cases are shown from both the prosecution and defense perspectives, with both sides having a point.
- Courtroom Antic: Plenty of them, done by both sides. The judges get in on the action with antics of their own (though they're largely safe-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).
- Dirty Cop: Fabricating evidence, lying to the jury, keeping Jerry from his client...Detective 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.
- Good Lawyers, Good Clients: Averted. Jerry has to defend a child-rapist at one point.
- 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.
- 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, along with a juror character... After 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.
- Pet the Dog: The prosecutors are routinely given moments that suggest they're not really bad guys, they're just doing their jobs.
- 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.
- 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.