When I first heard of the combination of Jim Belushi and Jerry O’Connell on a show about Las Vegas lawyers, I expected some combination of According to Jim and Law and Order. It sounded like a bad idea but I was pleasantly surprised with my viewing of the pilot episode of The Defenders.
The show begins by establishing its two central characters: Nick Morelli (Belushi) and Pete Kaczmarek (O’Connell). Pete is the charming, womanizer and Nick is the bold and brash ex husband, who is as obsessed with winning the case as he is finding out who his ex wife is dating. Usually these types of shows introduce a moody, quiet character with a haunted past to be accompanied by the outgoing, suave character who doesn’t follow the rules. It’s nice to see both Pete and Nick as vocal, witty, and eager to take charge.
Accompanying the two lead lawyers is their new associate, Lisa Tyler. She is fresh from law school and thrust directly into her first case. Although she doesn’t approve at first, she understands why and realizes that this law firm is where her passions can be utilized. She will certainly be a counter to the two lead lawyers.The central case to this episode involves a young man being accused of murder after a group of thuggish football players get into an altercation with the young man. The trial scenes are typical of most lawyer shows yet; it is the charisma of Nick that has you rooting for him to win.
It is after Nick watches a baseball player turn his back to avoid getting hit by a pitch that he realizes how the shooting truly happened. He then tests his theory by throwing water on both Pete and a testifying doctor to see them turn their backs. He is able to prove that the murder wasn’t on purpose but rather an accident. The brother was simply attempting to scare the four men from beating his brother into the ground. Unfortunately the gunshot killed one of them. Nick is able to prove through unconventional methods that the shooting was not an execution, but rather, involuntary manslaughter. A nice slow motion of Nick smirking and returning to his seat was a humorous touch to his antics.
An interesting storyline that can be developed for a good portion of the season can be found in the love/hate relationship between Pete and rival lawyer Meredith Cramer. There is a competitive and sexual tension between the two that has only been touched upon. I can see down the line where their relationship can certainly become central to the story.
There is a real chemistry between Nick and Pete and its enjoyable to watch them work together to win their case. I do however worry that the show will have trouble maintaining a balance between the humor and the drama. Hopefully it doesn’t turn into According to Jim: The Lawyer Years.
It would be disappointing to see this show get cancelled before it has a chance to find its own footing. There’s a lot of potential waiting to be discovered for these Las Vegas lawyers if viewers can give them the chance. And they should, because the show is surprisingly interesting and fun. Did I mention that Frank Sinatra Junior sings in the closing minutes of the show? Welcome to Las Vegas.
Sean McKenna is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.