Tuesday, September 14, 2010
"Outlaw" criminally squanders Smits
There's a handful of actors who can add spark and gravitas to nearly any project. I'd argue that Jimmy Smits is one of those actors. His galvanizing performance on season three of "Dexter" was the best thing about that uneven season, and his presence was the sole reason I managed to stay awake through the first episode of the short-lived CBS series "Cane."
So it's doubly disappointing to see him slumming it in "Outlaw," a fairly rote, cheesy legal drama that premieres Wednesday at 10 p.m. on NBC (its regular time slot this fall will be Fridays at 10 p.m.).
Smits plays Cyrus Garza, a famously conservative Supreme Court justice who quits suddenly to become a crusading attorney. His reasons are a mix of guilt (he's the sole survivor of a car wreck that killed his father), altruism (he believes he's doing the right thing) and fear (a gambler and playboy, he's got a few dark secrets).
The whole pilot is something of a paint by numbers affair. Cyrus has a ragtag team helping him, made up of those familiar types The Ambitious Nerd (Jesse Bradford), The Adoring Female (Ellen Woglom), The Scrappy Investigator (Carly Pope, playing almost the exact same role Archie Panjabi does on "The Good Wife" -- but not quite as well) and The Old Pal Who Keeps Him in Check (David Ramsey).
In the pilot, they team up to prove the innocence of a convicted murder. Do they succeed? I won't say, but you might be able to guess if you've seen one of the dozens of other legal dramas on TV (there's a "twist" in the case near the episode's end that I saw coming the second a certain character was introduced).
Smits smiles, raises his eyebrows and generally oozes charm, but he can only do so much to liven up the proceedings. He certainly can't camouflage the leaden dialogue, or the weakness of some of the supporting cast members (though Ramsey gives a nice, laid-back performance as Garza's longtime buddy).
"Outlaw" isn't unwatchable, per se. It's not very good and certainly not much of a challenge for Smits.