THE DEFENDERS: Leaving Las Vegas

There may be a glut of legal shows crowding the airwaves, but I understand the push to greenlight them. There are only so many occupations in which dramatic tension is woven into the very fabric of the work. The adversarial nature of practicing law builds interesting conflict into the premise of the show, which a good production can use to drive the week-to-week content.

Still, 20 years after Law & Order and 25 after LA Law showrunners have to hustle to make each new iteration of legal show eye-catching. That’s how you get Eli Stone, which used George Michael songs and a potential brain tumor to freshen things up. ABC’s failed The Whole Truth was a valiant attempt, presenting prosecution and defense views of the same evidence. Unfortunately, it sank under the weight of the Lifetime-worthy, overscored tags that showed what really happened.

The Defenders takes a very different approach, trying a marriage of levity and consequences to keep the format jumping. And to be honest, setting the show in Las Vegas is a great concept–the idea that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas solely because you enjoy attorney-client privilege is kind of inspired. Las Vegas…is what it is (where else can you see a whole ceiling-full of Chihulys within feet of someone handing you a prostitute’s phone number?), which should lead to cases that are tricky, titillating, and tragic by turn. There will also be ample opportunities–ample–for the leads to get into trouble. It really should inject new life into an aging genre.

Unfortunately, they’ve chosen to cast Jim Belushi as the lead, so I couldn’t watch more than 30 minutes of the darn thing. Can’t do it. Like the premise, like some of the rest of the cast (Natalie Zea!). Can’t do it. When David Cross thinks someone’s a jerk, that’s really saying something (and that’s coming from someone who likes David Cross). Jerry O’Connell is fine, but he’s not nearly likable enough to make up for how unlikable I find Belushi. If you don’t suffer from this same malady, let me know how the Vegas setting works out, but I’m folding.

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