Review: The Defenders 1×1

Dreadful and offensive - an insult to Vegas if that's possible

The Defenders

In the US: Wednesdays, 10/9c, CBS
In the UK: FX UK, some time in 2011

Allow me to cut to the quick: James Belushi and Jerry O’Connell star in The Defenders.

Still here? Ah, you don’t watch much TV do you? If you did, you’d realise that having either names, let alone both, in the cast list of a TV show is enough to guarantee extreme dreadfulness and/or cancellation (cf According to Jim, Carpoolers, Rex is Not Your Lawyer, Do Not Disturb).

Now, while The Defenders doesn’t sink to the same levels as Do Not Disturb, this legal dramedy about two Las Vegas lawyers – originally intended to be part of a reality show about Las Vegas, until the producers realised the two lawyers they were working with had some very interesting stories – has very little going for it.

Here’s a trailer so you can see what I mean.

THE DEFENDERS is a drama about two colorful Las Vegas defense attorneys who go all-in when it comes to representing their clients. Nick and Pete are the local go-to guys with an eclectic client list who are still looking to hit their own jackpot. Leading the law firm of Morelli & Kaczmarek are Nick Morelli, an earnest, hard-charging attorney who represents his clients to the best of his ability, no matter how big or small the case; and his partner, Pete Kaczmarek, whose passion for the law is matched only by his love of fast cars, beautiful women and expensive clothes. Joining them in their growing law practice is new associate Lisa Tyler, an enthusiastic young attorney looking to put her exotic dancing days behind her; and their young assistant, Zoe Waters, a spunky and sweet ingénue who is eager to please her bosses. While Lady Luck shines on their legal careers, the partners have their hands full when it comes to their personal lives. With Pete busy cruising the Vegas Strip for his latest romantic conquest, Nick is focused on repairing a fractured marriage to his estranged wife and remaining present in the life of their young son. No matter the offense, Nick and Pete aim to prove that when the stakes are high, they’re willing to bet the house on the clients they defend in Sin City.

Is it any good?
Let’s just say I won’t be watching again. Okay, so the story has a few redeeming qualities: it does have some interesting lawyer tricks, it’s about two normal guys who defend normal people and it’s set in Las Vegas, although most of the interiors are studios in LA by the looks of it (and it messes up the geography of Las Vegas, even in the opening titles). Jerry O’Connell is actually relatively appealing again, after his slow post-Sliders movement into irritating.

But the counts against it are quite severe:

  1. An appalling attitude towards women: virtually every female character is evil, stupid or only there for sexual exploitation. Even the new attorney at the heroes’ legal firm used to be an “exotic dancer”.
  2. James Belushi: not just wooden, but now very slow moving and seemingly in danger of forgetting whatever his next line of dialogue is.
  3. Predictable plotting: you know pretty much every turn the script is going to make, including magical revelations in the courtroom.
  4. Unpleasant characters: the heroes are unpleasant, the supporting cast are unpleasant, they all treat each other unpleasantly. Las Vegas may be the city of sin but that sin, last time I looked, wasn’t misanthropy.
  5. It’s dull: really, nothing happened in this that made me want to care about the characters or their situations.

So, all in all, another legal drama that does nothing too new, and when it does try new things, it just makes you want to hate it. Steer clear of it.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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