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TV Review: Outlaw

By James Beale
September 28,2010

"Outlaw" is your basic procedural: A lawyer show with a big name TV star and a notable guest star as a defendant. However, it shoves too many other ideas into one episode, and each idea is handled poorly or not at all.

Jimmy Smits is Cyrus Garza, a supposedly conservative member of the Supreme Court who flips political views a few times during the episode. Randomly, he decides to use the justice system not as a means of upholding the law as it's written, but to distribute his brand of justice, which is obviously always correct. Thus, he steps down from the court in order to become a small time defense lawyer, representing the underdogs.

There are a few obvious issues with this premise, including that no one would ever leave the Supreme Court to take small court cases. Still, I can accept a silly premise to get to the good stuff, but the show continues to hammer both Garza's muddled philosophy (he knows Truth) and the exposition down our throats.

The murderer of the week is Gregory Beals, played by RZA, famed member of the Wu-Tang Clan, who allegedly killed a police officer. Garza spends a lot of time working through boring technicalities which only serve to get around the corners the script writes itself into. Furthermore, the outcome of the case seeks to surprise so much, there is no substance or meaning to it.

There are other sides to Garza. First, the first scenes are an almost shot-for-shot remake of the beginning of "Iron Man," as Garza is made to look like a womanizer. He also has gambling debts which he is actively seeking to pay off, and there's an unknown man following him.

"Outlaw" inserts these plot threads, but never picks them up again. There's a show here, somewhere, that could be drawn out and still have the case of the week format. However, it would rather use the line, "How does it feel to be an outlaw?" and end with a sappy song.

"Outlaw" airs Fridays at 10 p.m., on NBC.

Grade: D

Stray Thoughts:
  • On Garza's bookshelves were pictures of Reagan and Teddy Roosevelt. Subtle. One thing I did like was "Khruschev Remembers," which is a highly recommended read.
  • A good procedural needs a memorable legal team, and Garza's legal team blends in with the unremarkable sets and costume design. Also, there is never a moment of rest or silence; a character is always talking, saying something the audience can figure out or overly dramatic music tells the audience how they should feel.
  • Garza gives his speech about resigning after handing down a 5-4 decision, and then gives his "moral rightness" speech while a defendant is being testified. I normally don't complain about the dialogue in television, as most of it is awful, but "Outlaw" is worst than most. Later, Garza exclaims, "Who says there's no justice," as he wins a hand in the casino.
  • In the final scene, there's a platter that reminds me of a Skip's Scramble from "Arrested Development." Ah, the meager joys.