Note: This review was written by Steve Hatton for Channel Canada’s Fall TV Preview section.
Jimmy Smits fans are no doubt delighted to see him return to television and while I can’t say that his new show is of the same calibre of L.A. Law or The West Wing, the pilot for Outlaw is pretty decent nonetheless.
Smits is a brilliant actor and his talent shines through in this new NBC drama where he portrays Cyrus Garza, a Supreme Court justice who quits his job to spend more time fighting for the little guy. One of the working titles for the show was Rough Justice, which actually does a better job at describing the show. Outlaw creates the false impression that this is about a fugitive on the run.
But aside from that, the show does have a pretty well-written script. Cyrus comes off looking like a legal expert who can quote laws at any time as if they’re on the back of his hand. The premise is actually believable as we see how there is considerable pressure for Cyrus to send who he believes to be an innocent man to his death, or risk losing his job. He chooses the latter, but not without a dramatic exit and a big speech. He resigns before they have a chance to fire him.
The dialogue is pretty believable and the characters all seem real. He has a few people working for him, including a private investigator, Lucinda Pearl, played by Carly Pope. Lucinda is an unorthodox risk taker who keeps intimidating one of her co-workers, a Yale-educated lawyer named Eddie Franks (Jesse Bradford) with jokes and comments about how he has the hots for her.
Having said that, her character can also be a little over the top at times. This could be a problem down the line in future episodes, as even interesting characters can seem two dimensional over an extended period of time, if they keep repeating the same routine. Hopefully, by then, we will find out there is more to Lucinda than just sexual jokes.
If I had to choose one thing about the pilot that I didn’t like, it would have to be the whole misunderstanding where his law clerk Mereta Stockman (Ellen Woglom) overhears a small part of a conversation over an intercom and is led to believe that Cyrus only has three months left to live. This scene was totally unnecessary and only served to add an I Love Lucy type of silly sitcom element in what was, otherwise up until that point, a fairly solid dramatic script. The writers could have found another way to advance the plot in way that was less forced.
I also couldn’t help but notice that in spite of Cyrus’ transition from Supreme Court judge to average joe lawyer, his staff of employees remained unchanged. That seems a tad unrealistic.
Overall, I still think Outlaw is a pretty good show. The program is bound to connect with viewers for its fight for justice appeal and its smart dialogue. Its biggest obstacle may be the Friday night time slot, more than anything else, but I suspect it could survive the season anyway.
Rating: Limited success (Might survive a full season)
When and Where:
- Premieres Wednesday September 15th at 10/9 C on NBC.
- Time slot premiere: Friday, September 24th at 10/9 C on Global and NBC.
UPDATE October 11th: NBC Cancels Outlaw. The remaining four episodes will air Saturdays beginning this week.