By Barry Garron
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Given the credibility of
its premise, "Outlaw" could begin with a narrator saying, "Once
upon a time ... ." The idea that a young Supreme Court justice
in the rare position of being a tiebreaker on crucial decisions
would resign hastily to avoid exposing his very public gambling
habit is preposterous.
It would be like the U.S. Senate approving a Supreme Court
nominee who sees pubic hair on his can of Coke. Or as likely as
NBC picking up a series from Conan O'Brien's production company
after their long, public and bitter separation.
OK, bad examples.
Still, it might seem hard to sell a scenario in which one
of the brethren forsakes the cloistered life of the Supreme
Court for the rough-and-tumble world of courtroom trials. Or
maybe that didn't matter to executive producer David Kissinger,
who conceived the premise, and executive producer John
Eisendrath, who wrote the pilot. Perhaps they figured, not
unreasonably, that if you can sign Jimmy Smits to play the lead
role of Cyrus Garza, viewers are bound to go along.
To a degree, a large degree, they would be justified in
that sort of thinking. Smits' take on idealistic attorney
Victor Sifuentes made him one of the most memorable characters
on "L.A. Law," one of TV's most memorable law series. And
though he's done heavy lifting on "NYPD Blue" and "The West
Wing" since then, it's clear from "Outlaw" that Smits continues
to be a commanding presence in a courtroom drama. Although
Garza enjoys a flashier and more hedonistic lifestyle than
Sifuentes ever imagined, both have a passion for the little
Smits' charisma, as well as the fact that future episodes
promise more intellectually involving stories, bode well for
In "Outlaw" (a dismal title, by the way, for a series that,
at its heart, pays homage to the judicial system), Smits is
surrounded by a capable and endearing supporting cast. Carly
Pope plays rule-bending investigator Lucinda Pearl, whose look
and lines account for about 95% of the show's sexual content.
Ellen Woglom is Mereta Sprows, the assistant with a crush on
Garza, and Jesse Bradford is Eddie Franks, Garza's
right-leaning assistant. David Ramsey, introduced in the pilot
as a lawyer for a man about to be wrongly executed, joins Garza
as a sort of junior partner.
There are strong production values, as well, including an
eye for authentic detail and effective use of subtle but
Unlike the generic and largely predictable story in the
pilot, future episodes have Garza and his team parachuting into
one hot spot after another, tackling issues ripped from the
In the second episode, Garza gets involved in the
controversial Arizona law that requires police to determine
whether a person stopped for an offense is in the U.S. legally.
Don't assume, though, that he will be on the side of those
protesting the measure.
Following Thursday night's sneak preview, "Outlaw" will
join the NBC schedule next week in the tougher 10 p.m. Friday
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