Review: Outlaw 1×1

A maverick judge who doesn't play by the rules. Sound familiar?

Jimmy Smits in Outlaw

In the US: Fridays, 10/9c, NBC

He’s a neo-con Supreme Court judge! His late dad’s a famous liberal! He feels guilty so jacks it all in to become a crusading lawyer, fighting to change the law and he’s going to make himself some enemies! He’s Jimmy Smits and he’s an Outlaw!

And we’ve seen it all before.

Starring Emmy Award winner Jimmy Smits (“NYPD Blue,” “The West Wing”), “Outlaw” is a new drama from creator and executive producer John Eisendrath (“Alias,” “Felicity”).

Few jobs are guaranteed for a lifetime, and a Supreme Court appointment is a position that no one ever quits – unless he is Cyrus Garza (Smits). A playboy and a gambler, Justice Garza always adhered to a strict interpretation of the law until he realized the system he believed in was flawed. Now, he’s quit the bench and returned to private practice.

Using his inside knowledge of the justice system, Garza and his team will travel across the country taking on today’s biggest and most controversial legal cases.

Garza’s team includes his best friend since childhood, Al Druzinsky (David Ramsey), a brilliant defense attorney with liberal beliefs; Mereta Stockman (Ellen Woglom), a hopeless romantic who is Garza’s loyal law clerk; Lucinda Pearl (Carly Pope), a wildly unorthodox private investigator who uses her sex appeal and wit to gather information for Garza; and Eddie Franks (Jesse Bradford), a tightly wound, rabidly ambitious Yale-educated attorney, recently hired as Garza’s law clerk.

Outlaw is a Universal Media Studios production along with Conaco productions. John Eisendrath (“Alias,” “Felicity,” “Playmakers”), Richard Schwartz (“Andy Barker, P.I.”) and David Kissinger (“Andy Barker, P.I.”) are executive producers.

Is it any good?
It’s not dreadful. Jimmy Smits is good. His character is good. It’s just everything else that’s either bad or derivative.

The first episode sees our hero, after sitting over a capital case that is an obvious miscarriage of justice but which the law wouldn’t normally allow to be appealed, turning from one of George W Bush’s best loved, non-interventionist judges into a crusader for all that is good in the world after deciding that he can’t change the law as a judge, only as a lawyer. That makes sense, doesn’t it? That’s how the legal system works isn’t it – the lawyers make the decisions don’t they? I can just see Scalia and Thomas giving up their seats, too, can’t you?

Smits then sets himself up as a lawyer to defend the accused. In common with The Good Wife, Shark and every other heroic, brilliant, maverick TV lawyer, he recruits a motley collection of people he knows to become his helpers. There’s a female lawyer who works hard, but isn’t very good and has a crush on him. There’s a young male lawyer who isn’t very good either and who doesn’t know how to talk to girls. There’s a black lawyer who’s quite good but is mostly stoic and dull. And there’s a quirky female, possibly bisexual, sex-mad private detective in a short skirt who’s there to irritate us more than the other very irritating characters put together.

These are all people from the cookie-cutter school of TV writing, designed to serve “TV dialogue”, which consists of conversational English and behaviours you won’t ever see in real life.

Smits isn’t that much of an outlaw. Sure he has gambling problems and sleeps around a lot. But that’s really just about as far as it goes. For a neo-con judge, he’s surprisingly unconservative and liberal – proof that Hollywood’s liberal bias is so strong that they can’t even write a conservative judge if they try? He also has no wife or kids, which depending on how you look at it is either a good thing (no equally tedious family characters to tell him “No, this isn’t what I signed up for when I married you!” or “Daddy, why are you always so late home?”) or a bad thing – he’s a cipher. It even nullifies the whole sleeping around thing as a sign of poor morality.

There is some slight intrigue to be had from the possible ongoing story arc to do with Smits’ former right-wing sponsors and people who might want to kill him and so I’ll probably tune in next week to see if anything happens. But this is average stuff, that you’ll have seen done 100 times before.

Prediction: death before the end of the season.