gerald mcraney sarah shahi fairly legal 'Fairly Legal': Gerald McRaney judges in Sarah Shahi's favorIn “Bridges,” the season-one finale of USA’s “Fairly Legal,” airing Thursday, March 24 (following a morning marathon of earlier episodes), San Francisco-based mediator Kate Reed (Sarah Shahi) gets a seemingly impossible assignment — settle a dispute in one day between endlessly litigious brothers — from tough Judge Nicastro (Gerald McRaney).

Being tested by Nicastro is nothing new for Reed, whose free-and-easy style has often grated on the judge’s nerves.

But off camera, it’s quite a different relationship for McRaney and Shahi.

“I love working with her,” McRaney tells Zap2it. “Isn’t she the cutest thing ever? And very hard-working. That little girl, excuse me, young lady — everybody’s a little girl to me; I’m an old fart — but anyway, she is just the most delightful young lady and hard-working, which always impresses me.

“She doesn’t take herself seriously, but she takes what she does extremely seriously. I just love that.”

McRaney then proves himself as kind a dad as he is a co-star, saying of Shahi, “She, in a strange way, reminds me of my own oldest daughter — she’s bright, intelligent, a nice person, witty, that sort of thing. So I felt a kinship with her from the get-go.”

When it’s remarked that Shahi is a rare thing — a beautiful actress who’s funny and not afraid to look silly — the adoring husband of Delta Burke says, “I’m married to one. Sarah doesn’t care. She’s not impressed with her beauty; that’s the other thing about her.”

At the same time as he was working on “Fairly Legal,” McRaney was playing another authority figure, a gruff CIA boss, over on the short-lived NBC caper drama “Undercovers.” With that gone — and with TNT passing on “Bird Dog,” the pilot he shot this year — if “Fairly Legal” gets a second season (which has yet to be announced), McRaney could come back.

Nothing would make him happier.

“I would like for it to work out,” he says, “because I like doing Nicastro, and I love working with Sarah.”

But when asked about the plot details of the episode, McRaney, who shot it a while ago, admits, “I do not remember. Oh, Lord, this is what my ex-wife refers to as half-Heimers.”

Then McRaney recounts a story featuring Jameson Parker, his co-star on the long-running and popular “Simon and Simon.”

“A journalist actually asked Jameson,” he recalls, “‘How does it feel to be the star of a Top 10 television show?’ Jameson thought about it for a moment and said, ‘You know, it’s odd, but seeing as how television goes through stars the way a whale goes through plankton, I don’t really know how to respond to that.’

“It’s true, and I sometimes feel that’s the way I’m approaching doing television roles. I’m going through them the way a whale goes through plankton. It’s getting hard to identify the individual plankton.”

Posted by:Kate O'Hare