Common Law: How (Not) to Play Doctor

Common Law S01E11: “Hot for Teacher”

Those of us who'd been waiting patiently for another Common Law episode featuring Dr. Emma were undoubtedly pleased to see her take on a prominent role in Friday's “Hot for Teacher,” but unfortunately, an extra dose of Sonya Walger couldn’t save this episode from being, well, not a train wreck per se, but pretty close. If we look at the story itself, the case o’ the week was refreshingly interesting with the mafia involvement and all. I love mob stories. A good mob story encompassing the entire season could have kept Common Law from descending into the slapstick horror show that it currently is. The mob stuff gets an A+ from me. The Godfather it was not, but AMC happened to be rocking a mob marathon all weekend anyway, so it was cool.

The bizarre saga of Wes’s naughty therapist dreams, however, was borderline unwatchable.

Maybe the dreams would have been more amusing if they'd belonged to Travis; then again, I wouldn’t have been surprised to learn that Travis had a few wet dreams starring Dr. Emma and frankly, I don’t think Travis would have been either. Sure, he was freaked when his own dirty dreams manifested in the second half of “Hot for Teacher,” but I chalked a lot of that panic up to his horror at sharing something so awkwardly intimate with Wes and the fact that the dreams didn’t even start until Wes brought them up.

So, maybe we were supposed to be amused at the uptight, anal-retentive half of this partnership being the one to get the weird sex dreams because it seemed so unlikely, but for me, the whole thing felt like a painful exercise in ham-fisting the romantic angle that I’m surprised took this long to show up between Emma and one of the partners. The fact that she ended up conveniently single by the conclusion of this episode only reinforces that stance. That she kicked them out of her therapy class after interfering in her (ex-)fiancé’s case is irrelevant. It’s only a matter of time before they’re back. I’m assuming that Travis and Wes’s removal from Dr. Emma’s therapy sessions was supposed to be the big emotional moment of the season and yet the biggest response to it that I could muster was a shrug.

I also typically don’t jump on the overcrowded Misrepresentation of Women rage-wagon because honestly, I’m pretty laid back about the whole girl power thing. I’m one of those girls who is basically one of the guys except with boobs and an unhealthy eyeliner addiction (two traits that aren’t even necessarily exclusive to being the token chick in my circle of guy friends) so I tend to not get bent out of shape over gender stereotypes, and if it’s any consolation to anyone who loved the sex dreams storyline, I don’t think “Hot for Teacher” will bring about repeal of the nineteenth amendment anytime soon. Mostly, I just found it annoying, boring, and unfair to both genders. Men are pigs who can’t help but think of sex all the time, even seemingly refined men like Wes Mitchell. Women, especially attractive women, are inherently sexual, even respected authority figures like Dr. Emma Ryan who, on one hand maintained her professional distance with the explanation of transference, and on the other seemed to experience a giddy sort of flattery from half of her class getting off to fantasies about her.

Common Law has the potential to be really smart and witty while retaining its lightheartedness. USA Network as a whole has given us that combination REPEATEDLY in its programming, especially in the formidable summer line-up. White Collar is practically the flagship for that formula. Suits has been blowing my mind all summer with the heights that its writing has managed to soar to. Even Covert Affairs, a series that I’ve admittedly regarded as a bit of a weak link in the past, has risen to the occasion. In the event that Common Law finds itself renewed for a second season, I sincerely hope that the series manages to find a happy place with the nuggets of potential that are buried under the heaps of screwball and suck.

And in an effort not to close on a complete downer, I believe that there is good to be seen in Common Law. Warren Kole and Michael Ealy are consistently delightful in their scenes together. They bring the bromance, which was initially one of the things that attracted me to the series, and I’m sure has managed to draw others in as well. The therapy angle has grown on me. And finally, like I said, this week’s mob case worked. Dr. Emma’s fiancé, a successful commercial developer, found himself tangled in a mob murder when a stiff was found beneath a slab of fresh concrete on one of his work sites. It was a challenging case for Travis and Wes which made it an interesting case, even outside of the connection to Dr. Emma and her family.

So here’s the breakdown:


– “Challenging” cases (possibly involving mobsters)

– Bromance

– Alex


– Awkward sexual tension for the sake of sexual tension

– Shoe-horned anything (but especially therapy “lessons” and romance)

– Forgettable cases and/or villains

You've got one episode left in the season, Common Law. Make it count, okay?

Case Notes

– As much as I hated the entire sex dreams storyline, I thought that dressing Walger in subtly sexier lady doctor dresses was a nice touch for the dream sequences. I mean, a low-cut red dress, while a little saucier than acceptable work attire at any professional gig I’ve ever had, was still closer to in-character for Dr. Emma than, say, a slutty nurse costume would have been. It certainly made the dream scenes a little easier to stomach as we eased into them and had to pause for a moment to wonder if they were “real,” as opposed to the show turning Wes and Travis’s dreamscapes into low-budget porno sets.

– Ah yes, pit bulls are vicious monster dogs that are only waiting for an excuse to rip your jugular out. Classic. You keep rocking those stereotypes, Common Law.

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