CBS has a new lawyer show on the schedule that brings Jim Belushi and Jerry O'Connell together at long last. Does CBS have another procedural hit on its hands?

The Pitch

The Defenders is Ocean's 11 meets The Practice meets Boston Legal.

The Set Up

Jim Belushi and Jerry O'Connell, both of whom have received more than their fair share chances to lead successful shows, play defense lawyers running a law firm in Las Vegas. Belushi still has a thing for his ex-wife and O'Connell lives a playboy lifestyle but really he's in love with a cute DA who he bangs on the sly. Together, they defend the criminals of Las Vegas from prosecutors who only care about "winning" and judges who are so stupid and incompetent they can't tell when they're being played like a fiddle.

Also, they've just taken on a new associate who got herself through law school by being an exotic dancer, a fact which is treated as scandalous even though Las Vegas is full of dancers. In the pilot, the three of them work together to defend a guy who killed a guy who was attacking his brother. The case was supposed to be un-winnable and they urge their client to take a plea deal, but actually the case turns out to be pretty simple. Because this show is terrible.

Cringe Factor (Out of 10)


There are a lot of problems here, starting with the decision to straddle the line between comedy and drama. There are elements that are meant to be jokey, like passing references to defending porn stars and all the playful banter between Belushi and O'Connell and, of course, their unconventional antics in court. But then it wants to be all serious when the verdict is being passed down and it just doesn't work; no balance is struck and the show goes from zany to over-wrought scene by scene.

Then there's the problem of the case itself. Shows about defense lawyers are interesting when they get into serious matters about morality and responsibility, the Practice spent all it's time dealing with this stuff and got a lot of mileage out of the leads defending guilty and/or scummy clients and openly discussing what they were doing. The Good Wife does something similar by paralleling Alicia's (Julianna Marguiles) plight as publicly wronged wife with her role as lawyer. But these guys defend people who are plainly and obviously innocent, and do so by appealing to the jury (or the audience) with a "what would you do in this situation?" sort of logic that makes the show entirely frivolous.

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What's worse is that the villains are completely incompetent and the case is too winnable as a result. The DA just wants to win, he doesn't care a lick about justice and that makes him sloppy. The medical examiner is so dumb that he didn't notice a step which changed his assessment of the murder. And then there's the judge, played by Stephen Root who obviously lost a bet and ended up having to be in this. When Belushi wants him not to include instructions about involuntary manslaughter, he just plays off the judge's machismo and arrogance, because he, like all of the adversaries in the show, is an idiot.

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Over/Under for Cancellation

On any other network, this show is gone in 6 episodes. On CBS, it may stick around for a season or two. Truth is, CBS does procedurals well and they do lawyer shows well. Plus, the setting of Las Vegas is familiar for them because of CSI.