A legal drama starring Simon Baker ("The Mentalist"), "The Guardian" lasted three seasons, offering a perfectly enjoyable legal drama that entertained thanks to a solid cast. The series worked well, despite not often venturing too far from the conventions of the (overcrowded) genre.
The first season set the premise for the series and grew nicely from there. Nick Fallin (Simon Baker, "The Mentalist") works for his dad, Burton Fallin (Dabney Coleman) in his Pittsburgh law firm - only after getting in trouble for drug use. The series opens with Nick being sentenced to 1500 hours community service working for Children's Legal Services as a child advocate. Having worked as a high-powered corporate lawyer, Nick must now balance his time between working for his demanding father and with children who desperately need his help. The show does an excellent job balancing the corporate law cases and the cases involving the children.
The characters are all strong and well developed. Nick Fallin is a great example of a multi-layered character that finds balance between his ego and his heart - which is not only due to the writing but Baker's convincing - and surprisingly sympathetic - performance. At the Children's Legal Services, Nick works with Alvin Masterson (Alan Rosenberg), who is initially skeptical of Nick, but grows to realize he genuinely means well.
The difference between the characters/cases at Childrens Legal Services and the corporate law firm is an interesting contrast, but what makes the scenes at the corporate law firm so enjoyable are the conversations between Nick and Burton. Coleman is fantastic opposite Baker and together they manage to create a very believable father-son relationship: while the two love one another, the relationship is certainly strained at times, and Nick harbors some resentment towards his parent, especially early on.
During the second season, Nick and Burton joined forces to run their law firm Fallin & Fallin. The second season continued on a similar path as the first, however the teaming up of Nick and Burton, some set-backs for Alvin, and growth in Nick's relationship with LuLu all add drama to keep the series from feeling redundant. By the end of the second season, the fate of James (Charles Malik Whitfield) is left up in the air, and the third season quickly puts all questions to rest.
The third season has ups and downs, including the extra cases piling up at Children's Legal Services after Lulu decides to move and James is shot. In episode "The Line", the pressure eventually gets to Alvin, and Lulu steps in to replace him, which also keeps her closer to Nick. Season three progresses Nick and Lulu's relationship to the point where they move in together ("Lets Spend The Night Together") and find out their going to have a baby ("Believe"). Still, despite their chemistry, their relationship is often hard to watch as there seem to be few relaxed moments. By half way through season three, things shift and Nick causes problems for his relationship and work when he starts take a drug ("Beautiful Blue Mystic"). The relationship between Nick and Alvin continues to be interesting and the actors are always memorable in scenes together, especially in the finale "Antarctica."
The majority of the series centers around the cases, but the lives outside of the case shine here as well. "The Guardian" has a nice way of offering a look at trying a case, but also the affects every case has on those involved. Most characters get some focus, including Burton who has to have heart surgery in the episode "Swimming" and Alvin's battle with ALS. The season/series finale "Antarctica" has some unexpected moments that don't exactly wrap everything up in a nice package, however there are some truly moving moments here, especially the final few minutes.
"The Guardian" has a promising premise and touching (and some heartbreaking) storylines. However, it's often the subtler moments here that make the series as moving as it is. Although the series may not have provided anything too new, "The Guardian" did manage to offer a bit more heart than most shows in the genre, as well as strong performances (Baker got a Golden Globe nomination) from the ensemble cast. Thankfully, the show's final season goes out on a solid note.
• Season 3
3-01 23/Sep/03 Carnival
3-02 30/Sep/03 Big Coal
3-03 07/Oct/03 The Line
3-04 14/Oct/03 The Father-Daughter Dance
3-05 21/Oct/03 Shame
3-06 28/Oct/03 Let's Spend the Night Together
3-07 04/Nov/03 Hazel Park
3-08 11/Nov/03 Believe
3-09 25/Nov/03 Let God Sort 'Em Out
3-10 16/Dec/03 Swimming
3-11 06/Jan/04 Legacy
3-12 13/Jan/04 Beautiful Blue Mystic
3-13 27/Jan/04 Amends
3-14 10/Feb/04 All Is Mended
3-15 17/Feb/04 Without Consent
3-16 24/Feb/04 Sparkle (aka: Glow)
3-17 02/Mar/04 The Watchers
3-18 09/Mar/04 The Bachelor Party
3-19 06/Apr/04 Remember
3-20 20/Apr/04 The Vote
3-21 27/Apr/04 Blood In, Blood Out
3-22 04/May/04 Antarctica
VIDEO: "The Guardian" is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen by Paramount. The picture quality looked very good, as while these episodes never appeared razor sharp, they looked consistently clear and crisp.
Still, a few minor concerns were spotted, including a couple of minor instances of edge enhancement and a few slight traces of pixelation. The elements used in the presentation looked to be in great shape, with no visible wear. Colors appeared bright and warm, with very nice saturation and no smearing.
SOUND: The show's audio is presented in Dolby 2.0. The show's audio was perfectly fine, if nothing to write home about - not surprising, given the material. Dialogue remained clean and well-recorded, while music sounded full and warm. Overall, the show's audio covered the bases well enough.
EXTRAS: There are no extras.
Final Thoughts: "The Guardian" has a promising premise and touching (and some heartbreaking) storylines. However, it's often the subtler moments here that make the series as moving as it is. The DVD offers fine audio/video quality, but unfortunately - especially given that this is the final season - zip in the way of extras. Still, on the basis of the show itself, recommended.