Do not be fooled by the title, this is not a Superhero show but about two Las Vegas defence lawyers and the strap line for the show sums it up better than I ever could “In Vegas even justice is hot”. When I saw preview for this show it looked like a buddy lawyer show, two main leads who work together on cases. And having just seen the film The Lincoln Lawyer which is also about a Californian Defence Attorney I was intrigued.
The show stars Jim Belushi and Jerry O’Connell both better know for film roles than TV, though O’Connell did star in 5 series of the time travel drama “Sliders”. They jointly run a slightly trashy defence firm Morelli/Kaczmarek, a firm which seems to only have four staff, apart from the two leads there is Lisa Tyler (played by Jurnee Smolett who was in Friday Night Lights) fresh from law school and receptionist/fixer Zoey Waters played by Tanya Fischer. As with all legal dramas the good guys need a villain, early on it appears to be Assistant District Attorney Meredith Kramer played by Natalie Lea who has also played a similar bad girl role in Dirty Sexy Money and is also in Justified, but she appears to have disappeared early into the show.
The show has been developed by Kevin Kennedy and Neils Mueller who have no TV background at all. The show is being shown on the FX channel in the UK on Friday nights (it gets a hot lead in from NCIS) and was shown in the US on CBS. Though nothing is confirmed, poor ratings have led to speculation there will be no Series 2.
Legal dramas, particularly US ones, do have a wealth of story lines due to the litigious nature of the country and Las Vegas appears to be a strong background, CSI has already shown us that. The show certainly plays on the flashy, glitzy and contrasting life in Las Vegas from the Strip to the sleazy downtown. It portrays the court house in Las Vegas as full of overworked, underpaid public defenders constantly under threat of putting innocent people behind bars due to sloppy legal representation. The main characters take the moral high ground in the few episodes shown and in each episode use a mix of legal and investigative skills to exonerate wrongly accused criminals.
The highpoint of the show is Belushi, he displays both glitz and depth as a single father and defence lawyer, and he is like-able and funny at the same time. Somehow in contrast O’Connell’s character is less like-able; he is supposed to be a womanising gambler with morals, which never seems to work. In one episode he begins by gambling heavily and ends by attempting to take on the case of a wrongly convicted gang member, it’s confusing. His affair with ADA Kramer in the first three episodes looks and feels like an affair but during the course of one case begins to conflict with his supposed morals.
Overall the show has a good pace but due to its small and shrinking cast looks doomed. It does seem a lot like Boston Legal in its blend of humour and appears too reliant on the case or cases of the week rather than building any long term plotlines.
A DVD release has been announced for both the UK and US, but the rumours continue that there will not be a second series.
STOP PRESS – On Sunday 15th May CBS announced that they were cancelling The Defenders as part of the announcement process called “Upfronts” where they presented the new shows starting in the Autumn.