The news for the NBC drama starring Jimmy Smits was bad about a week ago when production was reportedly shut down after just eight episodes had been made. The latest news is even worse: NBC has canceled the show entirely and will burn off four unaired episodes on Saturdays. That makes three shows, on three different networks, wiped out by mid-October: "Lone Star," "My Generation" and "Outlaw."
I am disappointed about "Outlaw" but not overwhelmingly so. (I was more disappointed about "Lone Star.") I liked the show at first because I liked Smits and what he was doing in it. (I have posted my original review after the jump.) I kept watching, as did the bride, but it was actually getting worse as it went along. (And most viewers hadn't bothered to watch once.) It seemed as if it was setting up a lot of straw figures for Smits to knock down; two of the three episodes I watched in their entirety included cartoon-villain prosecutors.
Around our house we try to abide by a three-episode rule: if a show doesn't prove really watchable after three telecasts, then it no longer gets DVR space. "Outlaw" made it to a fourth episode, but that one had a really lame ending and I doubt we would have tried a fifth. As the bride said, "Same old same old." We don't have time or energy for that.
My original review:
Jimmy Smits has been a TV star for close to 25 years. He swaggered into viewers' consciousness as lawyer Victor Sifuentes on L.A. Law in 1986 ` and won an Emmy for the role a few years later. When N.Y.P.D. Blue needed a successor to the formidable (and mercurial) David Caruso, it was Smits as Bobby Simone who filled the bill, as well as being part of one of the great death-bed scenes in TV history. Similarly, when The West Wing needed a dramatic presence ` and future president ` who would be a match for the formidable Alan Alda, it was Smits who was brought in, as Matt Santos.
There have been other roles, but those three especially show why Smits is so important to Outlaw, the NBC series getting a preview at 10 p.m. Wednesday (where it will have America's Got Talent's results finale as the lead-in) before moving into its regular time slot at 10 p.m. Friday.
It's important that the audience bring both some respect for and a willingness to like Cyrus Garza, Smits' character. The man is smart but arrogant, honorable but with demons, sexist but still able to recognize smart women ` and having Smits on board makes it possible to recognize his flaws without being overwhelmed by them. And, at the end of the first episode, it's Smits who will make you come back for more.
The show's twist is that Garza, a very conservative Supreme Court justice, quits to take on lost causes as a practicing attorney. His belief in his conservatism has been shaken
by the death of his liberal-activist father. In addition, he loves action ` including all kinds of gambling ` and being on the bench has felt too smothering. So, with a team of associates, he dives back into the fray, starting with a death-penalty case brought to him while he's still on the Supreme Court.
I can't say that I bought into the case very much, and especially the twists it takes along the way. (It feels as if the show's makers saw The Verdict more than once.) And the premiere sets in motion subplots ` Garza has enemies ` that only distract from the main part of the case. The supporting cast, which includes Jesse Bradford, Carly Pope, David Ramsey and Ellen Woglom, is a mixed lot; Ramsey is good and Woglom gets a couple of decent moments, but Bradford's stuck with a stereotypical character and I've never been a fan of Pope.
Still, I will be back for more. And I will be back in large measure because Garza is an interesting guy, and Smits is playing him. There's a scene late in the premiere that on paper would seem implausible; Smits makes it work.