Just when you thought that there wasn't room for another legal drama on prime-time, along comes 'The Defenders,' a new hour-long procedural set in Las Vegas. Jim Belushi and Jerry O'Connell are defense attorneys based on a couple of real-life Vegas lawyers, who were joined on the panel by co-stars Jurnee Smollett and Tanya Fisher, exec-producers Harry Gantz, Joe Gantz, Carol Mendelsohn, Kevin Kennedy and Niels Muller, and showrunner Greg Walker.
Since the show hasn't started shooting yet, there wasn't much in the way of dirt from filming, but Jim Belushi kept the panel lively despite some truly dire questions from attending critics. A rundown of highlights follows after the jump.
Keep in mind that in each case, our opinions are based on a pilot that could be completely recast and reworked between now and the fall.
Show: 'The Defenders'
Timeslot: Wednesdays, 10PM ET
The lowdown: Nick Morelli (Jim Belushi) and Pete Kaczmarek (Jerry O'Connell) are attorneys in Las Vegas who are not only brash -- they just unveiled a huge billboard near the Strip -- but are inclined to take chances with their clients. If they need to skirt contempt in order to get a judge to inadvertently help them out, they will. If it takes sleeping with the prosecutor to get a kid's charges dismissed, they will (at least Nick will). As they get more notoriety, their client list becomes more eclectic. At the same time, Nick is separated from his wife, Pete is living at the Planet Hollywood hotel and bedding flight attendants, and they're both trying to break in a new associate (Jurnee Smollett) who has to constantly fight against her reputation as a former stripper.
However, the most exciting part of the presentation was getting a chance to see glimpses of the new shows: the remake of 'Hawaii Five-O,' new comedies 'Mike & Molly' and $#! My Dad Says,' Tom Selleck's cop drama 'Blue Bloods' and Jim Belushi and Jerry O'Connell in 'The Defenders.'
As for the new shows, the trailers are generally quite good; not a dud in the bunch. Here's my impressions and some clips for you to judge for yourself.
(S02E03) "Some glib ad man, in that suit, cigarette perfectly in hand, not a hair out of place...here to tell him he's a bad boy?" - Jimmy's wife Bobbie, explaining to Don while Jimmy hates him
I was eating a sandwich (late dinner) while watching this episode of Mad Men, and you know what I was eating with it? Utz potato chips! I actually bought them specifically for the episode today because I knew that one of the plots had to do with an Utz account that Sterling Cooper was handling. This could be a trend, eating/drinking/using a product that a Mad Men plot revolves around. I'm not saying I'm going to be wearing Belle Jolie while watching an episode, but if there's one show that could make me do it it's this one.
Now, who does everyone think Jimmy was modeled after?
(S04E15) "Life's a cabaret, man." - Denny Crane
Christopher Rich is one of my favorite of Alan's adversaries not only because he's a "hoot" himself but because he is one of the few lawyers who give back to Alan exactly what he dishes out. As much as I adore Alan Shore, it pleases me to no end to see him get frustrated almost to the point of anger. Who knows, one day, he may even lose to someone like Melvin Palmer but I won't hold my breath.
When Alan lost his temper with Melvin, it was great. I can't remember ever seeing Alan look so embarrassed. I guess we shouldn't be shocked that a guy who has no ability to suffer fools also has a deep seated fear of clowns.
A roundup of TV people from in front of the camera and behind the scenes who have passed away.
- Nancy Littlefield: Littlefield was not only the director of New York's Film Office, overseeing the filming of several movies including Fame, Kramer vs. Kramer, and All That Jazz, she was also one of the first women in the Director's Guild of America, having helmed episodes of The Defenders and The Naked City. She died of cancer in Florida at age 77.
(S03E18) This is why television was invented.
I hardly know where to begin. Let's start with Alan and his hilarious storyline. It was a great idea to separate Alan & Denny for this episode and "Mr Wisenheimers" (Spader) dynamite delivery provided some much needed comic relief. Also, this is the second episode in a row to start with women in their underwear. I hope it becomes a trend.
Now for the rest of the episode. For those of you who foolishly didn't watch, the biggest deal in tonight's episode was that actual footage of a very young William Shatner is used for a series of flashbacks. This footage comes from an episode of Playhouse 90 entitled The Defender, which also starred Ralph Bellamy as Shatner's father. If that title sounds familiar it's because the episode was eventually turned into a series starring E.G. Marshall and Robert Reed. I should note that Shatner did play a lawyer later on in a series called Man of the People, but the footage used for tonight's show was definitely from a live performance.
Here's an interesting fact about William Shatner, who celebrated his 76th birthday last week: Boston Legal is not his first legal drama. Back in the early 1960's Shatner had an recurring role on The Defenders as Assistant District Attorney Earl Rhodes. And before that, 1957 to be exact, he appeared in an episode of the anthology series Studio One titled "The Defenders".
Why am I mentioning all of this? Well, the producers of Boston Legal are planning to use footage from Shatner's Studio One appearance in the April 3rd episode. According to a piece at contactmusic Shatner's character, Denny Crane, will be taken hostage by a man who holds a grudge against him stemming from a 50-year-old court case. That means that the 76-year-old Shatner will be paired with the 26-year-old Shatner throughout the show.
By the way, the episode of Studio One that will be used also featured a young Steve McQueen (credited as Steven McQueen), who was an unknown at the time. It hasn't been determined if footage featuring McQueen will be shown during this episode of Legal.
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