Take Me to the Pilots '10: CBS' 'The Defenders'
Jerry O'Connell and Jim Belushi star in a better-than-expected Vegas legal dramedy
[As I've already mentioned, and will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots.]
Show: "The Defenders," CBS
The Pitch: "It's 'dr. vegas' only with lawyers."
Quick Response: Never rule out the power of diminished expectations. Thanks to oddball leading men Jerry O'Connell and Jim Belushi, "The Defenders" stands a good chance of earning a number of "Well, it's better than I expected" reviews, reviews that ignore the number of likable performances scattered throughout the resumes of both stars. Premise-wise, "The Defenders" is an easy sell. If Las Vegas is home to a wacky and peculiar set of murders or medical maladies, it stands to reason that there will never be any shortage of gamblers, mobsters, strippers, porn stars and wannabe outlaws in needs of defense attorneys willing to do whatever it takes to keep them out of trouble. O'Connell is fine and Belushi is very good and they've been surrounded by some appealing talent, including Jurnee Smollett, playing one of those quintessential hotties who stripped to pay for law school. I don't know what the ongoing availability is for pilot guest stars Natalie Zea and Stephen Root, but there's little doubt that the show would benefit from keeping both around as much as humanly possible. For my money, the show already has a strike against it by opting not to film in Las Vegas, since the pilot benefits from Sin City "as another character" (a favorite cliche of mine), which it probably won't be with future episodes shot mostly in LA. "The Defenders" is almost never original, but the pilot is reasonably well grounded in character and a renewable premise and has potential to emerge as another piece of comfort entertainment for CBS, albeit in a genre the network hasn't cornered.
Desire To Watch Again: I doubt I'll be a regular viewer of "The Defenders," but I'm not opposed to watching it again, perhaps. The caution would be that if both stars have been likable in the past, they've also been really annoying, especially O'Connell (you may say "especially Belushi"), and just because the pilot tamped down those smarmier tendencies doesn't mean that the series will be able to.
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