outlaw pilot review. spoiler alert: IT SUCKS

Sep 22, 2010 01:29

OHMYGOD, you guys.  Do you ever watch something that is JUST SO BAD you cannot look away?

I watched the Outlaw pilot yesterday.

I was halfway through the one-sentence summary provided by Hulu when I went "this is EVERYTHING THAT ANNOYS ME ABOUT THE WORLD."  Followed subsequently by "AND SO I MUST WATCH IT."  And I was about thirty seconds in when I completed my thought, as follows: "AND SHARE THE MISERY WITH THE ENTIRE INTERNET."

I have no idea why I do this to myself. IT'S ON THE LIST, OKAY?

OUTLAW SUMMARY:  A Supreme Court Justice quits his post in favor of fighting for real justice.
Ugh.  Do you all know how sick the false dichotomy between "reason" and "justice" makes me?  How lol-worthy it is to pretend someone would up and leave the Supreme Court when they didn't absolutely have to?  How irresponsible it is to buy into cheap lawyer jokes that do nothing but perpetuate hopelessness, mistrust, and irresponsiblity in the legal system?  How bizarre the idea of someone who wasn't disillusioned forty-five minutes into his 1L year is?

I wasn't going to share this post, and then I realized, some of you might accidentally watch this shitfest.  This is my gift of love to you.


I actually don't care about characters' names until five or six episodes in, but I will be referring to these people as such:

JIMMY SMITS plays an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court.  He has daddy issues, a gambling problem, and devoted followers.  They are:

AL, Justice Smits' Black Best Friend.  He is a politically liberal defense attorney who has an AWESOME DAUGHTER, who unfortunately only gets two lines.

His CLERKS.  BETTY is Cameron from House, but with pearls and way more feelings.  VERONICA is a spunky outgoing sex fiend.  DUDE CLERK is straightlaced and actually has some potential to be entertaining in a dry, dickish way, so he is probably toast.

RECAP:  The Supreme Court must decide whether to stay the execution of a black Philadelphia man convicted on flimsy evidence, and it's all down to Jimmy Smitts' character, who has a reputation as a "balanced," "dispassionate" jurist.  He surprises everyone by voting to overturn the conviction, and then quits the court.  He and his merry band, financed and given free rein by an unspecified firm, decide to take on civil rights cases around the country, starting with the wrongly convicted man in Philadelphia.  Because this is a heavily contrived feel-good procedural, justice prevails.

While the drama is painfully contrived, I will say that the pilot does a fair job in introducing several (probably too many) plot threads, giving its main character some depth and backstory, and supporting characters a decent amount of screen time in just 40 minutes.

Unfortunately, this means that the main storyline - you know, the dude about to be unjustly executed? - suffers a lot.  There is no moral conflict.  The guy is clearly innocent, and he has a fiancee and kids waiting for him on the outside.  Half of its attempt at drama is manufactured with an intimidated witness who changes her mind about testifying approximately sixty-two times, leading to a tiresome repetition of the following:

JIMMY SMITS:  This witness completely exonerates our client!
CLERK:  *hangs up phone*  She's not going to testify.
OTHERS:  What?  The prosecution got to her!  She was our whole case!  *peas and carrots watermelon watermelon peas and carrots produce of angst*
AUDIENCE:  Wait, if Al was such a hotshot lawyer, shouldn't he have found this lady years ago?
JIMMY SMITS:  She changed her mind!

In what should be a surprisingly realistic twist, the defendant was framed by the victim's police officer husband, who used his position as a police officer to cover up the crime.  Usually on crime shows, the twist is that the husband didn't do it, when IRL it's extremely likely.  And unfortunately, victims of domestic abusers who are police officers are extremely unlikely to seek or receive help anywhere.

While I'm glad to see the light of day put on that issue, the execution is severely lacking.  Apparently working off the assumption that the audience would never believe an abusive murdering fuckhead is actually an abusive murdering fuckhead, the witness tells us that the cop was "hooked on the junk," which is what he was doing at the scene of the body drop.  How we got from "cop at a crack house" to "working-class black man available for a vaguely plausible frame job" is not exactly clear or if it was explained in non-grossly-racist terms it happened entirely too quickly for my liking.  Also, not that I condone this behavior or am suggesting your friendly neighborhood police office engages in it, but if we're working off the assumption that this police officer is a corrupt murdering addict fuckhead, he's not patronizing a crack house.  He's making cocaine busts once in a while and skimming off the top of whatever he confiscates.

I'm by and large not usually wild about trial narratives where the defendant's innocence is proved conclusively by either a tearful eyewitness or someone getting the actual murderer to crack on the stand.  It's deeply unimaginative as a storytelling device, but it also undercuts the idea that everyone deserves a vigorous defense, that guilt or innocence isn't always clear (if a case goes to trial it is likely to be very UNCLEAR, given the vast incentive on both sides for plea agreements), and it completely fails to comprehend what the presumption of innocence means in theory or in practice.

If this was a more subtle show, I'd think that the police officer's addiction and how it helped cause him to make a major decision that completely changed his life was meant to parallel Jimmy Smits in a way.  But this is not that show.  Our first glimpse of JS is in a casino, where he is kicking ass at cards.  Blackjack, I think?  Whatever, I don't care.  He is kicking so much ass that the casino throws him out for counting cards.  Now, I cannot imagine a modern Justice (a) being in a big casino with the general public or (b) being thrown out of one, counting cards or not.  Wouldn't a casino take the hit for that kind of VIP?  Especially one who probably has friends in and influence over, say, the IRS and INS?  JUST SAYING.

Later in the episode, we find out that he is in the hole to a sketchy bookie for an amount that sounds absolutely wild to your average viewer but is like half of what he could make in no time flat but whatever we'll go with it.  Also, if he can count cards, why the hell is he in the hole in the first place?  This matters because a senator who championed his confirmation knows about it, and Senator Asshole thinks giving the defendant a new trial will TIP THE COURT IRREVOCABLY INTO A COMMUNIST ABYSS, so he threatens to go public and single-handedly have JS impeached, so it's a factor in his resignation.  Both the bookie and the senator are hilariously unsubtle, and can only get to JS because he is mysteriously and improbably without a security detail.

Anyway, outside of the casino that he shouldn't be at and definitely shouldn't be at alone and really shouldn't be thrown out of, a young hot lawyer from the ACLU - oh, I just love how the ACLU is the only go-to liberal legal organization IN THE UNITED STATES EVER.  Couldn't drop a line for the Innocence Project?  HEY YOU GUYS:  CHECK OUT THE INNOCENCE PROJECT - informs him that the "vote" on the court is 4-4.  Because obviously some justices have ridiculously public votes on their constitutional deliberations while others go out and get their midlife crisis on, THAT IS HOW THEY DO.

And here, two minutes into the episode, we are introduced to the massive douchiness of the character, the writers, everyone at NBC who gave this the green light, and the entire world.  This woman is trying to do her (wildly unrealistic) job.  Which, in case you missed it, is actually a matter of life or death.  And JS smarmily hits on her, using a pickup line which does not even make sense.  ("I sleep like a baby.  But for you, I'll make an exception."  Huh?  He doesn't sleep after sex?  He only snores post-coitus?  He can go all night like a 1L on Adderall?  I don't get it.)  This is straight-up glorifying that kind of bullshit.  Because male judges really do harass the shit out of female attorneys and judges.

The show has another thirty-nine minutes to redeem itself on the gender politics front, maybe make the justice's bad behavior an actual character flaw, but no.  This is the setup for how he relates to every female character except for one, who is fourteen.  Two of his three clerks are ladies, it is true.  Betty wears pearls, plays by the rules, and is very quiet except for when she inexplicably bursts out that she is IN LOVE WITH THE JUDGE.  He condescendingly tells her that she is too good for him because he does not remember the names of the last three women he slept with.  Betty does, because apparently she has one of those creepy always-on cameras in his home laptop.  SO TO RECAP:  ladies you fuck do not deserve names.  Ladies who do deserve names are unfuckable, but they inflate your manly ego by being less than half your age and also wildly and COMPLETELY INEXPLICABLY in love with you.

But the show is very in favor of ladies having sex, probably so it is not completely shocking two episodes down the line when we will undoubtedly see twenty-two year old law students in Jimmy Smits' bed, with their hair so un-messed up you know he lasts about two minutes in the missionary position.  Until then, we settle for Veronica.  Veronica is never seen in a skirt less than five inches above her knees and is a recent graduate of Harvard Law, where she was on the varsity strip poker squad.  She is bisexual, which is VERY IMPORTANT for you to know for the upcoming clerk-based three-way, I guess.  She expresses her bisexuality by macking constantly on every dude in sight and not even talking to other women.  With the exception of the hugely embarrassing scene where Betty confesses her love for Jimmy Smits, and another scene where she is lying her ass off, her lines consist of:

VERONICA:  You're checking out my boobs, Dude Clerk.
DUDE CLERK:  Nice to meet you?  And also, no.
DUDE CLERK:  I am so okay with this state of affairs.
VERONICA:  I get it!  You're gay!  I'm going to go fuck Al!
AL:  I'm married.
VERONICA:  So?  Let's do it with your wife!  She is hot!  I know this because I am bisexual!  BISEXUAL, DO YOU HEAR ME?
AL:  That's not my wife.  It's Dude Clerk.

Basically she is 90% pornified sexist biphobic stereotype and 10% funny-looking dye job.

Unfortunately, the lines above are just about all of Dude Clerk's characterization, except for one scene where Veronica lets him come up for air just long enough for him to wonder if the justice left the court because he "committed a crime or got some girl pregnant." Either Dude Clerk is under the impression that fucking while single is an impeachment-level offense against decency, or by "girl" he is referring to a female child, WHICH WOULD ACTUALLY BE A CRIME.

So everyone on screen is a one-dimensional fool with verbal diarrhea.  Except for Jimmy Smits.  He has depth.  He has layers.  He has MAN PAIN.  You know this because he has DADDY ISSUES.  And if there is one thing television lacks, it is dudes with Daddy Issues.  You see, JS's father was a big time civil rights lawyer, who up until his Recent Untimely Death liked to pass his weekends going on Larry King and criticizing JS's judicial style.

The Daddy Issues - with the subtle layering, you guys, this is fucking Shakespearean shit - deal with the larger, and wildly intellectually dishonest, conflict within JS about whether one should be a "dispassionate," "moderate," "cautious" legal practitioner, OR to run around a courtroom yelling "MORAL RIGHTNESS!  MORAL RIGHTNESS!" instead of making a logical argument, thus implying that there is no logic to moral rightness.  Tell that to Thurgood Marshall.  To Ruth Bader Ginsberg.  I SUBMIT TO YOU A THOROUGHLY DISPASSIONATE READING OF THE LAW.  JS suggests that he personally is on the side of gay marriage and euthanasia, it's just that damned neutral reading of the law getting in the way!  If you think a logical, correct reading of the rules must benefit the privileged...you think the Constitution is a morally reprehensible document.  Which is his prerogative, but that's probably the sort of thing that would've come up in confirmation hearings.  Of course, the only person to be unintimidated enough to call him out on this is Al's teenage daughter, who, upon being sent to her room, and this is a real line of dialogue:

AL'S DAUGHTER:  *scoffs* Fascist.

Which made me LOL forever.  Unfortunately it was the only even vaguely entertaining thing about this episode.  TWO THUMBS DOWN.

feminism, episode review, rant

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