I enjoyed the early episodes of this new series, thanks to the winning chemistry of the two lead actors. But writing has gone downhill in a hurry, and what started as entertaining has become obnoxious.
Key problem is the very phony attempt to make Belushi's character, under his brash & even vulgar exterior, a sort of crusader. The classic "The Defenders" series from the '60s was a model of good writing, bringing up and defending liberal & progressive causes week after week. I was a huge fan, and obviously the new (same title, different concept entirely) series couldn't be cast more differently from the memorable Marshall & Reed team. (Surprisingly, the age difference between the two actors is greater on the new show than the old one.) Belushi seems false and uncomfortable when called upon to mount a soapbox. For my money, the comic/actor has aged into an altogether different personality -I would like to see him do a Jackie Gleason TV turn, perhaps bringing back Gleason's classic characters like Reginald van Gleason III.
This particular episode had an absurdly handled up-to-the-minute cause: the permanent damage suffered by the players in pro football. Of course we sympathize with these guys, but the writing was preposterous and the way the segment developed -showing that the guy was ultra-dangerous and could even turn on (& maim if allowed) his counselor played by Jerry O'Connell made no sense at all. This is a case where I found the prosecutor's arguments utterly convincing, and the lame gimmickry of Belushi & O'Connell a joke.
The obligatory subplot concerned the introduction of Jerry's ne'er-do-well dad, played under protest (it seemed) by James Brolin. The current prominence of Brolin's real son, Josh, was an elephant-in-the-room distraction making it difficult to buy Jerry as his son in TV land, but the character was poorly drawn and could very well be a one-shot. A Brolin/Belushi scene involving latter's wedding ring was so stupidly scripted and obviously played that I couldn't believe they not only didn't do it over again, but that it was left in the finished episode. It was among the worst scenes I've seen on TV this year, and that includes several horrendous early-in-Season 8 episodes of "24" involving Katee Sackhoff & her boyfriend which will go down in TV infamy.
Producers and writers of "The Defenders" had better pull their socks up in a hurry and get the show back on track, or it's plug-pulling time. And time to get Belushi as The Great One into development.
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