Outlaw - NBC: Fridays at 10:00
I was not having a very good week. I had not laughed - or virtually spoken - in several days, a fact possibly reflected in my TV reviews - though I maintain Networks took care of most of that by holding a giant "Who can be the Unfunniest?" contest.
Anyway, my first laugh in days came while listening to Alan Sepinwall describe the premise of NBC's new legal drama Outlaw. I will summarize using one sentence, one of the awesomest sentences you will eve read:
Super-conservative Supreme Court Justice Cyrus Garza (Jimmy Smits), who has a gambling addiction and will nail anything in a skirt, is the sole-survivor of a tragic car-crash that kills his Rights Liberal Lion hero father, and this experience causes Garza to realize that his whole life has been misspent, that his conservative views are wrong, and now he must become a Liberal Lion too, helping the little guy, and the best way to help people is of course to QUIT THE SUPREME COURT, become a lawyer, hire young hot promiscuous (and possibly bi-sexual) clerks, and oh yeah WANTONLY BREAK THE LAW TO GET WHAT HE WANTS, in the best tradition of an ex-Supreme Court Justice current-trial lawyer with a heart of gold.
I'm not proud of this, but I will admit - I actually giggled like a little girl when I heard this. It sounded impossibly bad, and I was intrigued. I thought to myself, somewhere, Aaron Sorkin is making Christine O'Donnell very upset. (That's the best joke I've written in two weeks, so get your fill.)
The first episode is appallingly bad. It's the best comedy of the year...except it's not meant to be funny. If you're bored, I encourage you to check it out on NBC.com. I haven't even begun to describe the Awful, the sleaze, the ick-factor, so much that it almost comes back full-circle to watchable, if only for that train-wreck capacity.
I told my family about it last Friday, trying to make them laugh. A little bit later I returned from the store to find they had it on, my mom explaining, "Hey it's that show you wanted us to watch."
I dropped my face in my hands. Never have I so badly explained something. However, not wanting to be a poor sport, I sat down to watch with them, at least hoping there'd be some MST3K potential.
The pilot episode involved a Death Penalty case (a black defendant convicted of killing a white lady cop, and it turned out the real murderer was her widowed husband, also a cop), while the one I watched with my family involved the new Arizona Immigration law (a white cop accused of shooting a Latino man who turned out to be a citizen, a construction foreman checking out some property at night). Both cases were utterly ridiculous, though points on the second one for at least being prescient to recent national news.
After it was over both my parents and my brother Achmed all said they liked the show. My exact words were, "I hate all of you."
To be fair, the episode we watched (the third one overall) was much more conventional than the absurd pilot. This isn't completely unexpected. Pilots are often shot months before regular shooting, and the Networks often order substantial changes. The biggest surprise was that, unlike the T&A first episode, there was no real sex in this one. (A heartbroken Achmed on this development: "Don't abandon your concept!")
If you were Jimmy Smits, who would you want first?
I suppose Outlaw might find its footing, taking a "ripped from the headlines" approach and trying to balance the political waters - and end up being a hybrid of Law and Order + West Wing. It might even be watchable to me, and as my threshold is apparently quite high, you might like it already.
But I'll be honest - I would be more willing to watch if they went all in on that crazy first episode. In fact, I would be MORE interested in Cyrus Garza if he stayed a bad-ass womanizer with gambling debts to the mob AND stayed on the court. That would be an utter train wreck - but something worth seeing.
As for this show.....I've seen young attractive women and I've seen Jimmy Smits's best moves. I've seen Headline shows and political shows, and I've seen American icons break the rules when it suits them. Any of these things can be done well, but I think I'll wait for something else to come down the tracks.