If only all this country’s court cases could be heard on television. On TV, the cases can be decided in a day or so instead of being drawn out for years or even decades. The little guy actually gets to win against the big guy with the bigger pocket book. Justice is served, weekly, in nice, neat one hour packages and the cases get tied up with a pretty little bow leaving no doubt as to guilt or innocence.
A television series about the real life workings of the judicial system would never make it. Something like that has actually been tried before. It was called Murder One and produced by Steven Bochco. The idea, at least initially, was to follow a single case, start to finish, with the verdict to be delivered at the end of each season. Generally speaking, it was pretty compelling television. But then the powers that be, in an effort to boost ratings, starting futzing with the formula. Season two started backing off from the one season, one trial model. By the time Murder One was cancelled, it was fading fast in the ratings and had little to distinguish it from any other courtroom drama on television.
And that brings us to Outlaw. It’s not exactly bad television, but there is really very little here to set it apart from all the rest. In other words, it’s no Boston Legal. Hell, it’s not even The Good Wife. The case central to the pilot episode may as well been taken straight out of the “How to Make a Courtroom Drama” playbook. Page 37, I believe, in a chapter titled “Death Row Cases and How to Overturn Them at the Very Last Minute”.
Even if we allow for the general feeling of “been there, done that” there’s a giant damn plot hole that I just can’t get around, no matter how much I like Jimmy Smits. As Justice Cyrus Garza, Smits chooses to retire from the Supreme Court so he can get in there and fight for the little guy. The thing is, they set Garza up as the Court’s swing vote. He’s vote number five in all those 5-4 decisions. Maybe it’s just me, but if I’m determined to fight the good fight for the little guy, there is no position more powerful in the entire world than as the swing vote on the Supreme Court of the United States!
But whatever. If you like Jimmy, you may be willing to forgive the weak plot points; you might actually learn to enjoy the show. But there is nothing here that’s going to keep me coming back week after week.
Outlaw airs Fridays on NBC at 10/9c