A Sin City school of law

Jim Belushi and Jerry O’Con­nell are Las Ve­gas part­ners in a show whose open­ing state­ment is a bit thin.

Los Angeles Times - - Calendar - MARY McNAMARA mary.mcnamara@latimes .com

In 1961, CBS pre­miered a show called “The De­fend­ers” that starred E.G. Mar­shall and Robert Reed as fa­ther-and-son lawyers tack­ling big-is­sue cases of the day — abor­tion, eu­thana­sia, cen­sor­ship — through ex­quis­ite un­der­stand­ing of the law. On its web­site, the Mu­seum of Broad­cast Com­mu­ni­ca­tions de­scribes it as per­haps the most so­cially con­scious se­ries the medium has ever seen.

Al­most 50 years later, CBS is in­tro­duc­ing an­other show called “The De­fend­ers,” which stars Jim Belushi and Jerry O’Con­nell as a fa­ther-and-son-like team of Ve­gas lawyers who, when not strug­gling with, re­spec­tively, an ugly divorce and a pen­chant for fly-by sex, take on kind of tough cases and use cheap show­man­ship and con­trived last-minute breaks to win them.

It’s enough to make a grown TV critic cry.

This ver­sion of “The De­fend­ers,” cre­ated by Kevin Kennedy and Niels Mueller, fol­lows the firm of Morelli (Belushi) & Kacz­marek (O’Con­nell), two tough-guy lawyers of the type who ad­ver­tise on bill­boards, rep­re­sent porn stars and hire young as­so­ci­ates who put them­selves through law school strip­ping.

So, you know, the big is­sues of the day.

There’s ac­tu­ally no rea­son this couldn’t be a per­fectly fine le­gal pro­ce­dural, ex­cept there’s no in­di­ca­tion that any­one is at­tempt­ing to make it one. The script is strictly writ­ing by num­bers — Morelli has his ex-wife fol­lowed be­cause he misses her and his son and, mean­while, Kacz­marek sleeps with flight at­ten­dants and pros­e­cu­tors alike in a des­per­ate at­tempt to be some sort of play-uh.

Their case in­volves de­fend­ing a scruffy youth who ac­ci­den­tally shot a high school foot­ball player who was among a gang at­tack­ing his brother (and we all know that high school foot­ball play­ers in­volved in any group ac­tiv­ity other than foot­ball are bad news).

There’s a snotty pros­e­cu­tor and an up­tight judge for Morelli to “out­smart,” with much more help from the strip­per turned lawyer than his part­ner.

There’s a fa­mil­ial spat at a kids’ base­ball game and an I-don’t-like-you-much sex scene — in other words, noth­ing we all haven’t seen be­fore, with nary a char­ac­ter or a line of di­a­logue that’s mean­ing­ful or mem­o­rable.

Let this be a les­son to us all: If you go to the trou­ble of cre­at­ing an iconic TV show, legally pro­tect the ti­tle.

Robert Voets

DUO: Jim Belushi, left, and Jerry O’Con­nell por­tray tough-guy lawyers who have some is­sues of their own.

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