I'll be honest: I fully expected to be writing about how lame "The Defenders" (CBS, 10 tonight) is.
After all, it stars Jim Belushi, who was on the lame, yet inexplicably long-lasting "According to Jim," and Jerry O'Connell, who just bugs me.
But you know what? "The Defenders" is good. It doesn't reinvent the lawyer show or anything, but it's good precisely because of Belushi and O'Connell. Ain't that a kick in the head?
The men play Nick Morelli (Belushi) and Pete Kaczmarek (O'Connell), two Las Vegas lawyers, the kind that take any case no matter how sleezy, as long as it makes them money. They seem to be good at what they do, although they don't always need to be; Kaczmarek is a player who sleeps with a lot of women, including the district attorney (Natalie Zea). Morelli, meanwhile, is going through a divorce he doesn't want. Also on board is a new hire, Lisa Tyler (Jurnee Smollett), a former stripper, and Zoe Waters (Tanya Fischer), their firm's garish secretary.
Belushi's character is the adult in this show, the smart and grounded lead attorney, and it's refreshing to see him this way. He gets to showboat in the courtroom and there's a nice twinkle in his eye when he's on to something in the case. It's clear he's enjoying this part. O'Connell, for his part, tones down his manic energy, and that works too.
"The Defenders" is a prototypical CBS show; it stars two perfect-for-TV actors, it isn't offensive, it has a mixture of humor and drama. It's just plain likable. That's a nice surprise.