Jonathan Storm: Jimmy Smits in 'Outlaw': No Sandra Day O'Connor

"Outlaw" stars (from left) Jimmy Smits, David Ramsey, Carly Pope, Jesse Bradford, and Ellen Woglom.
"Outlaw" stars (from left) Jimmy Smits, David Ramsey, Carly Pope, Jesse Bradford, and Ellen Woglom.
Posted: September 15, 2010

Tall, dark, and handsome, Jimmy Smits is one of TV's most imposing leading men.

But he's powerless to rescue the cheap concept and construction of his newest series, Outlaw, even if he is one of its 14 - count 'em, 14 - producers.

Trying to get noticed in the ratings backdraft of the America's Got Talent finale (and isn't NBC driving that show into the ground?), Outlaw premieres Wednesday at 10 p.m. on NBC, before sliding into its regular time slot on Fridays at 10.

Smits stars as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Cyrus Garza. Garza is such an impossible character, in a universe so completely different from that of any of the 112 people who have sat on the real court, that the U.S. is more likely to stand for Ultra-Stupid than United States.

First, he's a womanizer. More important, he's a gambler with big debts and a bookie intent on collecting them. Finally, he resigns from the court, under pressure from a powerful senator, when he has a revelation that he's supposed to work to defend the downtrodden.

We first meet him at the blackjack table in Atlantic City, winning a pile of $100 chips to augment his big stack, all of which he simply leaves behind when the casino bouncers come to throw him out for counting cards.

No wonder he has a lot of debt.

TV shows are not required to bring enlightenment to the masses. But they can be dismissed when they ignore plain facts on the assumption that the audience is too uninformed to care. No one would ever be thrown out of a New Jersey casino for counting cards. It's illegal. Garza points this out to the bouncers. It bothers neither them nor him.

The opening is a warning that Outlaw is a lazy effort, and it's borne out when the learned justice mixes up the meaning of masthead and letterhead, and the show's first case is settled with a courtroom surprise in a dust storm of legal impossibilities based on a bunch of degree-day, body-decomposition mumbo jumbo that isn't worth the flatfooted nonexplanation offered by not one, but two characters.

You might dismiss the bad pilot and look forward to future developments - if the entire structure of the show weren't so lame.

Garza's new legal crew comes straight from the giant generic-character warehouse of pretty faces in the San Fernando Valley. An experienced African American defense attorney. One conservative, dark-haired male law clerk, and one liberal, blond female law clerk who's in love with her boss. And an extremely grating (NBC publicists call her "sassy") private detective, who taunts the conservative guy because he's not interested in her.

Maybe, like her, he's bisexual, she speculates, trying to get with Outlaw's illogical program.

TV needs a lot of fodder to fill the schedule, but junk like Outlaw should be outlawed, with a special-circumstances punishment for completely wasting as fine a talent as Jimmy Smits.

Contact television critic Jonathan Storm at 215-854-5618 or Read

his blog, "Eye of the Storm," at

comments powered by Disqus