[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all “These are reviews.” If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]
Show: “Bad Judge” (NBC)
The Pitch: From the title/narrative construction that brought you “Bad Santa” and “Bad Teacher” comes… “Bad Judge”!
Quick Response: NBC's “Bad Judge” is the last Take Me To The Pilots entry for a show premiering this fall on a major network. I've saved it until the end for two good reasons: 1) As the title accurately teases, it's bad. 2) I'm reasonably sure that the pilot sent to critics in May isn't going to be the pilot that's going to air on NBC this fall. I think NBC liked the idea of doing a show with Kate Walsh and they liked the idea of ordering two pilots produced by Will Ferrell and they liked that the title is an easy sell. So Liz Brixius has been brought in to run the show and two major roles have been recast and another role is being pushed from the margins to the center and I really don't know what “Bad Judge” is going to look like when it airs, which is good because the original version of “Bad Judge” is just a mess. At the center, you have a very simple Vocational Irony Narrative. Professionally, she's a judge, but in her personal life she has very poor judgement. See what they did? But the pilot has no clue how to simultaneously balance the main character's professional proficiency with her personal disorder, making it impossible to judge — Apologies — how the woman we meet came to have a position of some power and respect, while living the life she's living. That's not to say it's impossible to be respectable by day and disreputable by night, but if the irony is the titled center to the story, you have to make the show itself about choices, immediately making us respect this woman in certain contexts, while wondering about her in others. There isn't an iota of character through-line to the Rebecca in the pilot, so Walsh's performance is similarly unformed, but “Fargo” left me with no uncertainty as to her ability to play comedy, so I'd like to see what she can do with more creative focus. Mather Zickel and Arden Myrin had barely-developed characters in the pilot and while they're both solid comic performers, they added nothing to the nothing they were given, so I'm not going to miss them. Tone Bell, one of the only parts of the pilot I liked, is having his part expanded. That can't be a bad thing. A lot will depend on what “Bad Judge” decides to do with the core relationship between the judge and a kid whose parents she sentenced to prison. I thought that dynamic showed a little potential, but it also seemed to imply an arc taken rather wholly from “Bad Santa,” only with new racial and socio-political overtones that the initial pilot had no desire or ability to explore. I didn't love everything Brixius did on “Nurse Jackie,” but at times she showed the ability to do smart work with a female character facing contrasting levels of personal and professional competence. I can almost totally guarantee that she won't make “Bad Judge” worse than the original pilot. So I'd come down harshly on what “Bad Judge” was and I'll remain open-minded on what it could be.
Desire To Watch Again: Strong-but-measured. I really want to see what the newly reshaped pilot looks like. If there's any sign of improvement, I'll give this a couple more episodes. If there's no sign of improvement, I won't be looking forward to that second episode at all. [UPDATE: Liz Brixius has left “Bad Judge” and my interest in watching more has gone to zero. Cut bait, NBC.]
Take Me To The Pilots '14: 'Cristela'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: NBC's 'A to Zed'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: ABC's 'Manhattan Love Story'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: 'Gracepoint'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: NBC's 'The Mysteries of Laura'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: CBS' 'The McCarthys'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: ABC's 'How To Get Away With Murder'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: FOX's 'Mulaney'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: 'Marry Me'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: CBS' 'Madam Secretary'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: ABC's 'Forever'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: FOX's 'Red Band Society'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: NBC's 'State of Affairs'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: CBS' 'Stalker'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: ABC's 'Selfie'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: The CW's 'Jane the Virgin'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: FOX's 'Gotham'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: NBC's 'Constantine'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: CBS' 'Scorpion'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: ABC's 'Black-ish'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: The CW's 'The Flash'
All of my 2013 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2012 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2011 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2010 Take Me To The Pilots Entries