Series Premiere — Outlaw, “Pilot”

Apologies for the hackneyed, bad-looking logo used for this post, but it’s all I could really find. But I guess that is fitting, since the people behind Outlaw used the same sort of logic.I have to admit that because I expected the worst based on reviews from people who have seen at least the first two episodes, the first act of Outlaw caught me partially off-guard with lack of sucking. Jimmy Smits with his inherent Jimmy Smits-ness, that semi-arrogant charm and moderately-paced wit had me enjoying myself during the scene at the casino and the first one in his office. Yes, the dialogue is horrendous in these scenes, full of law-related puns (“And people say THERE IS NO JUSTICE!”), but I can go with it for the sake of watching Jimmy Smits be his TV star self.

And then because the series has a fairly ridiculous set-up, the pilot immediately falls apart when it gets to that. In the span of eight or nine minutes, Smits’ Cyrus Garza goes from being proud of his conservative nature as Supreme Court Justice, to crying over his dad’s death and changing his mind, to stopping a man’s execution, to stepping down from the Supreme Court, to getting a job at a faceless new law firm that gives him carte blanche to do whatever and go whatever (despite that he’s a judicial pariah), to putting a new team together and finally, getting on the case of the man whose execution he just stopped. Seriously, all that happens in less than 10 minutes. And while all that’s happening, there are constant cues to remind us of what just happened or what the series is about. Multiple people tell Garza that he’s…an outlaw! He’s a conservative puppet! He has gambling problems! His father is ashamed of him!

When the rest of the pilot follows typical courtroom procedural drudgery and the rest of the characters range from intensely annoying (Carly Pope’s overtly sexual, single entendre-spouting PI and Jesse Bradford’s annoying, political aide twit) to stereotypically inert (Ellen Woglom’s love-drunk assistant) while existing only to tell Garza that he’s crazy, there’s not a lot going on here aside from Jimmy Smits being Jimmy Smits.

And even he can’t save this nonsense from being a tired attempt about to create a unique character at the certain of a procedural drama. One of the worst offenses television series can make is try too hard to make certain characters interesting or zany, particularly lead characters. Sometime it’s necessary to establish that the series is going to be something different, but Outlaw isn’t going to be any different from what’s on television right now. Perhaps the writers are convinced it will be and that’s why they are trying so hard to make Garza such a multi-faceted case of contradictions. But if they just calmed down the character and let Jimmy Smits do his thing, Outlaw would probably be better off. It would still be a logic-free procedural full of annoying supporting characters, but at least it would have a TV star being a natural TV star at the center.

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