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TV Review: ‘Bad Judge’

With:
Kate Walsh, Tone Bell, John Ducey, Ryan Hansen, Miguel Sandoval

Ah, “Bad Judge.” If ever a title lent itself to ridicule, it’s this one, although the show works pretty hard to earn the gibes. Kate Walsh plays the robed dispenser of justice, who, when not on the bench, has sex in her chambers, shows up to work hung over and generally behaves like a college sophomore on perpetual spring break. Walsh’s mix of comedy chops and sex appeal do as much as an actress could to sell such a role, but even generous acceptance of the show as broad farce makes it difficult to return a favorable verdict.

In a way, the series is a one-note joke, in the same way “Bad Santa” or “Bad Teacher” sort of said it all about the movie. But if you’re really going to go that route, it practically requires a pedal-to-the-metal approach that isn’t pursued – or perhaps even possible to the extent necessary, on an ad-supported broadcaster.

Yes, Walsh’s Judge Rebecca Wright is an unapologetic party gal, and a self-described “workaholic freakshow.” Yet in the reworked premiere — which has managed to make the show inoffensive, but not good — she’s not even really that bad. After all, she goes out of her way to help a wisecracking foster kid. But presumably, “Mildly Inappropriate Judge” wouldn’t have looked as good on billboards.

The same largely holds true for a second episode, in which Judge Wright beds a hunky firefighter — despite the fact she considers him dumb — and presides over a case involving an actress, with paparazzi flooding into her courtroom.

As for the cast, there’s not enough support to be found in Wright’s bemused bailiff (Tone Bell), the expert witness (Ryan Hansen) she occasionally sleeps with, an officious prosecutor (John Ducey) and a very underemployed Miguel Sandoval as her ostensible boss.

Basically, it’s all just “Night Court, 2014,” down to the silly cases and creative sentencing. Then again, NBC might have been slightly starstruck by the off-screen auspices, which include Will Ferrell’s production company and Anne Heche collaborating on the story with writer Chad Kultgen (“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone”).

That the show has already undergone a showrunner change suggests the whole exercise wasn’t the subject of particularly careful deliberation. NBC has slotted “Bad Judge” on Thursdays, pairing it with the incompatibly romantic “A to Z.” Viewing the matter charitably, the network might be throwing a couple of different looks on, hoping one of them sticks.

Whatever the rationale, based on the available evidence, the title might as well apply to whoever gave the pitch for “Bad Judge” a thumbs up.

TV Review: 'Bad Judge'

(Series; NBC, Thurs. Oct. 2, 9 p.m.)

Production: Filmed in Los Angeles by Gary Sanchez Prods. and Squirrelius in association with Universal Television.

Crew: Executive producers, Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Anne Heche, Chad Kultgen, Jill Sobel Messick, Kevin Messick, Betsy Thomas, Kate Walsh; co-executive producer, Andrew Fleming; producers, Owen Burke, Joanne Toll; director, Fleming; writer, Kultgen; story by Kultgen, Heche; camera, Alexander Gruszynski; production designer, Bill Arnold; editor, David Helfand; casting, Geraldine Leder. 30 MIN.

Cast: Kate Walsh, Tone Bell, John Ducey, Ryan Hansen, Miguel Sandoval

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