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TV Review: Little Defense For Awful ‘The Defenders’ With Jim Belushi

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CHICAGO – Calling CBS’ “The Defenders” a drama might be a bit of a stretch. But it’s not funny enough to be a comedy either. Instead it falls into the limp valley in between choosing an occasional bit of manipulation to try and qualify as drama but also relying heavily on the comic timing of its stars, Jim Belushi and Jerry O’Connell, but failing as both.

HollywoodChicago.com Television Rating: 1.0/5.0
Television Rating: 1.0/5.0

CBS generally skews to an older demographic and so it’s not surprising to see more generic programming on the network and I don’t mean that as a criticism in any way. CBS has found quite a bit of success with its formula and every network works that way. It’s just a fact that a program like “Human Target” fits better on FOX and “Hellcats” on The CW. But CBS has found undeniable success within its formula with breakout commercial and critical hits like “C.S.I.,” “The Mentalist,” and “The Good Wife.” The problem is that the relatively-safe approach to drama at the network occasionally leads to truly generic junk like tonight’s “The Defenders,” one of the worst new dramas of the season.

O’Connell and Belushi play the partners in the Las Vegas law firm of Morelli & Kaczmarek. As he always does, Belushi plays the everyman, the guy who can fight for the little guy in the courtroom and have a beer with his client after the verdict. Pete Kaczmarek is more of the ladies man, of course, and O’Connell plays him as a wannabe lothario, a guy who loves fast cars and faster women but still has a heart of gold.

Jerry O'Connell, Tanya Fischer, Jim Belushi, and Jurnee Smollett star in THE DEFENDERS, a new drama about two colorful Las Vegas defense attorneys (Belushi and O'Coneell) who go all-in when it comes to representing their clients. THE DEFENDERS will premiere this Fall, Wednesdays (10:00-11:00 PM ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Joseph Cultice/CBS ©2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Jerry O’Connell, Tanya Fischer, Jim Belushi, and Jurnee Smollett star in THE DEFENDERS, a new drama about two colorful Las Vegas defense attorneys (Belushi and O’Coneell) who go all-in when it comes to representing their clients. THE DEFENDERS will premiere this Fall, Wednesdays (10:00-11:00 PM ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Photo credit: Joseph Cultice/CBS ©2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The man-children are joined by a new associate named Lisa Tyler (Jurnee Smollett) and an energetic assistant named Sophie (Tanya Fischer). Nick has problems at home and a young son that he wishes he could spend more time with while Pete tries to balance the high life in the city of sin with his time-consuming profession.

A legal drama set in the land of Las Vegas might work in theory but it’s hard to deny that the shifting sands of the fortune of that city in 2010 doesn’t have an impact on the failure of “The Defenders.” In the heyday of the bubble, when people were betting their mortgage money on black, a relatively-silly program like “The Defenders” might have worked, but with unemployment and foreclosures at close to a national high in Las Vegas, one would think that the producers would realize that the recession has made their location choice a bit more complex than their two-dimensional program can deliver.

The complete ignorance of the fact that Vegas has gone from a party town to a relatively-sad place is only one flaw of “The Defenders.” More importantly, the writing on the show just doesn’t work. The courtroom scenes fall flat. The characters aren’t interesting. It’s as flat as the desert around the city in which its characters live.

“The Defenders” goes head-to-head in the courtroom of TV ratings with ABC’s “The Whole Truth” on Wednesday nights. Neither program is likely to set the world on fire but the latter is significantly superior and it will be interesting to see if the safe approach taken by CBS works yet again to win the case or if the TV jury realizes that they should object to writing this bad.

“The Defenders” stars Jim Belushi, Jerry O’Connell, Jurnee Smollett, and Tanya Fischer. It premieres on CBS on Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010 at 9PM CST.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

Content Director

Dmaccan's picture

I can see a 3/5 but this

I can see a 3/5 but this review is a bit of a hatchet job. Honestly, your primary complaint is that a legal comedy isn’t sad enough? Hunh. It didn’t have many musical numbers either, but hey, it’s not a musical.

Michael's picture

Go Defenders!

I actually really like this show and am sure to watch it after Criminal Minds. I’m glad to see Belushi in a good show. Well done CBS and cast!

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