OUTLAWS: Objection!

Full disclosure: I’m probably guilty of giving any new NBC lawyer show a more thorough going-over than usual, since said show was chosen over NBC providing me a weekly dose of David Tennant as a lawyer. In other words, I expect these shows to be outstanding to make up for the terrible, terrible cost they’re imposing on the world.

Sadly, Outlaws doesn’t make it over the bar of “watchable,” let alone outstanding. Jimmy Smits is his typical charismatic self, with enough gravitas to sell heavy legal plots and enough playfulness to sell Cyrus Garza’s troubled, disorganized side without weighing down the show. While I’m not thrilled with the female characters being relegated to Stieg Larsson or chick lit rip-offs, the cobbled-together legal team (including Carly Pope, David Ramsey, and Jesse Bradford) has a lot of chemistry. The scenes focusing on the team working to unravel a winning legal strategy have potential.

The problem is that the scenes bracketing the plucky team are so beyond the scope of suspendable disbelief that the entire show sinks under their weight. I’m not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, and even I know that when a court overturns a previous conviction the guy who was on death row 20 minutes ago isn’t immediately headed out for a Krispy Kreme. The opening scenes where Cyrus announces his departure from the Supreme Court–yes, the Supreme Court of the United States of America–while delivering an opinion from the bench are likely meant to show him as a maverick, an untamable iconoclast. Instead, it’s simply ridiculous. “Hey, y’all, I think I’ll step down from the Supreme Court. Kisses!” so thoroughly undercuts the character that it damages the rest of the show by making a what should be a serious approach silly. That’s not even mentioning the fact that Cyrus’ decision to become the defense lawyer in the trial he just ordered as a Supreme Court Justice apparently doesn’t wave any conflict of interest flags. Jimmy Smits feels very intensely about this issue, so it must be okay!

I like a good legal show, so I’ll keep hoping Outlaws figures out the law, but until then it’s hard not to wonder what David E. Kelley and Kathy Bates will be bringing to the bar–or what Tennant could have.