[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: "Outlaw," NBC
The Pitch: "Take 'Shark' and replace Jimmy Woods with Jimmy Smits! It's a Latino 'Shark'! It's 'Tiburon'!"
Quick Response: A relatively young (Jimmy Smits pretending he's "pushing 50") and notoriously conservative Supreme Court justice decides to leave his lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land in order to become a crusading liberal defense attorney. Ummm... Sure. You betcha! "Outlaw" is hindered by an utterly ludicrous premise. He might as well leave the Supreme Court to become a punter for the Redskins, or to lead a mission to Mars or to undergo a sex change operation and run for Miss Universe. No amount of weepiness about his deceased father or not-so-subtle discussion of his demons (a gambling problem) is going to make the pilot of "Outlaw" seem even slightly plausible. And even once you leave the premise -- the script don't bother defending his motivations for very long -- aside, everything in the "Outlaw" pilot is equally ridiculous, including the legal machinations of the case-of-the-week and his interactions with his team of clerks, who suddenly decide that a clerkship with a nutso pro bono lawyer is every bit as good as a Supreme Court clerkship. And with such a goofy, ill-defined character to play, Smits just coasts on past mannerisms, going back on autopilot after his compelling and image-redefining work on "Dexter." But there's no reason why, with the stupid premise out of the way, "Outlaw" can't just settle into a familiar "eccentric defense attorney who knows how to play the system and isn't afraid to bend the rules" format. I guess "Shark" was the reverse, wasn't it? He was a soulless defense attorney and he becomes a crusading prosecutor who knows how to play the system and isn't afraid to break the rules? See? And you thought "Tiburon" was going to be formulaic! "Outlaw" is a bad pilot, but there was always talk that NBC might pick the show up and reconceive it entirely. That appears not to be the case, but there are pieces to work with -- Smits, Jesse Bradford, Carly Pope, David Ramsey, possibly Gina Gershon, if she hasn't been written out -- and "Outlaw" may end up becoming generic and serviceable if you just skip the pilot and pick the show up in Week Two. My fear is that Smits' character is going to keep playing the, "Don't tell me about that precedent... I WROTE THE RULING!" card every week, while mobsters and government thugs lurk in the background menacingly. I would forego rolling my eyes at that particular inanity in favor of catching "Tom Selleck's Crime-Fighting Mustache" on CBS at the same time. Then again, I would semi-happily watch a show based around Carly Pope's "Tiburon" character. She's hot and seems to be having more fun than anybody around her.
Desire To Watch Again: I don't ever want to watch *this* show again, but "Outlaw" is so demonstrably a show-in-transition that I'll definitely give it two more episodes to declare its intentions before bailing.
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