In case the title Bad Judge was a little too shorthand and didn’t prepare you, the pilot is quick to give you everything you need to know to form your own snap judgment and recuse your TV from the rest of the proceedings. I assume it owes some gratitude and royalties to either Bad Teacher or Bad Santa, but I really wouldn’t know and intend to stay ignorant of all such likenesses.
Before I continue, I suppose I could add a courtesy spoiler alert for anyone who’s saving this mistrial on their DVR for a rainy, thundering, frog-pouring kind of day. The element of surprise certainly didn’t help me out.
In our first morning with our antihero, Judge Rebecca Wright (Kate Walsh, dying for a change of pace from Private Practice), we watch her awaken with a hangover after an average party-hearty night, throw on last night’s clothes, drive her wolf-painting van down to the drugstore for a pregnancy test, beat a guy in a wheelchair to the handicapped space using her fraudulent permit, and then show up for work as a duly appointed official entrusted with enormous responsibility and constituents who have reasonable expectations of their government. And that’s just the first two minutes.
Like all the popular TV characters the kids crave on cable these days, Judge Wright (HO HO IRONIC NAME I GET IT NOW) isn’t perfect. At all. We love our flawed characters, don’t we? Too bad “unfunny” is one of the more unforgiving flaws. When she’s sobered up and the aspirin kicks in, she can go through the judging motions as needed. Her first opportunity for case-law yuks arrives with special guest Chris Parnell as a wacky bigamist that she sentences to “Feminism” (that’s the scene’s actual punchline, not me nitpicking) and a crappy T-shirt. It might be funny if I couldn’t imagine a real judge doing that, or even a judge from The Practice.
The back half of the show curiously eases up on her judicial malfeasance and instead has her interfering in the life of a schoolkid named Roddy (Theodore Barnes) because she feels guilty for finding his parents guilty and having them put behind bars. Too bad for Roddy that Judge Fun-Aunt has the mothering skills of an Adam Sandler character. Whether he’s being picked on by a 12-year-old bully or getting in trouble for drawings that would’ve been too obscene for prime-time TV twenty-five years ago, Our Antihero is right there to provide poor advice, make things worse, nearly get him condemned to juvenile hall, but magically save the day anyway because no one wants to be reminded that the last time a TV kid went to juvie, it was Randy on The Wire and the hearts of all the viewers were steamrollered into pulp. Not a good sitcom fit; hence, happy ending.
The small supporting cast doesn’t seem any more thrilled with their assignment than I am. There’s the straight-laced prosecutor (John Ducey) whose straight-lacedness is very straight-lacedey. Her unassuming bailiff is played by Tone Bell from Whitney, which earns him extra demerits from me. Miguel Sandoval is mandatory disapproving authority figure. The one time I laughed was courtesy of defense attorney Ryan Hansen, playing a gainfully employed version of Dick Casablancas from Veronica Mars. I even scribbled in my notes to mark the grand occasion: “I snickered once at Hansen.” I didn’t write down the funny line itself because I thought it deserved to escape man’s grasp and fly free, rather than being pinned down for dissection like an exotic butterfly. Soar with the wind, o singular wit-o’-the-wisp.
As judge sitcoms go, Bad Judge is a long, long way from the glory days of Night Court. Maybe I should’ve saved time and heeded the opening credits: the show’s platoon of executive producers includes Will Ferrell and frequent cohort Adam McKay, who together have made several films I’ve avoided. That may or may not explain quite a bit. In fact, let’s assume it explains everything and consider our case closed.
There. That was easy. Court’s adjourned.
[MCC 2014 Pilot Binge stats: Minutes passed before I wanted the show to go away: that first minute. Minutes passed before I wanted it to burn: 16. For more information on the MCC 2014 Pilot Binge project, please visit the initial entry for the rationale, the official checklist of pilots, and links to completed entries as we go. Thanks for reading!]