by Jonathan Gray — University of Wisconsin - Madison
September 15, 2010 – 22:46
I suspect Outlaw is not long for this world. And clearly the writers shared this concern, since it’s written all over their show. Consider:
- Early on, Jimmy Smits is threatened by a senator who tells him he’ll crush him.
- Later, Smits is told he has “3 months, best scenario.”
- And a mysterious man (Jeff Zucker’s axeman?) is following him around throughout the latter part of the episode.
The premise: Jimmy Smits plays Cyrus Garza, a Supreme Court judge who wants to fight cases, so he resigns and leads a supposedly crack team of his own choosing into the trenches of defending the innocent.
The script could be a spec script for any number of lawyer shows, it’s that uneventful. The music cues are poor and only hurt that script. Garza’s saucy PI Lucinda is all sorts of annoying, clearly trying to be like Angela from Bones and failing miserably. His other team members are simply boring. And the case seems almost laughably easy – if getting people off the death penalty after years of presumed guilt is this easy, we could (and perhaps should) all be lawyers. Indeed, I imagine lawyers will hate this show almost as much as I hate television’s insistence that all professors are remarkably inspiring leaders and/or sleeping with their students.
The politics in it are also remarkably crude. From Garza’s first scoff at a stereotyped ACLU member, to the subsequent charge, from the grave, that he is a conservative who knows he’s wrong deep in his heart, and to the nefarious Republican senator who threatens his career as Supreme Court Judge, it’s all good guys and bad guys. The starkness of this binaristic framework is all the more jarring when it surrounds Smits, whose most recent turn on television saw him navigate the murky moral waters of Dexter, and who a few years earlier, closed out The West Wing in a season that was willing to offer nuance to both liberals and conservatives. Yet here, I half expect the Republicans to wear black eye patches, such is the writing.
But truth be told, it’s not superbad, and I’m just picking on the more egregious things above. Rather, it’s just wholly uninspiring and thoroughly meh. It putters along without really dazzling or doing much of note. There are way better shows, but also way worse ones. David Ramsey (who you may know as Anton from Dexter), for instance, is solid and likeable. Smits is reliably strong, yet as with Cane, he’s once more jumped aboard a bland show that doesn’t promise to jump out in any real way.
So, I echo Garza’s bookie: “3 months, best scenario”