(Spoiler alert: Please do not read on if you have not yet seen the series premiere of NBC’s “Bad Judge” entitled “Pilot.”)
After watching Kate Walsh prance around for 30 minutes as the poster child for a grown-up who never really grew up, I’m still not sure whether I hate NBC’s “Bad Judge,” or just find it incredibly dumb. Maybe a little of both.
Walsh is a fantastic actress with a wide range of talents, including comedy, but none of them were on display here. While there is potential in the concept of a respected judge on the bench who is a hard-partying reprobate in her personal life, NBC failed to find it in this dud.
The pilot attempted to soften her character’s edges by showing her maternal side, which is a trope too often used for female-led shows. It’s as if writers think viewers need to see a maternal side to be able to respect and appreciate a woman with power or authority.
They’re basically saying that a woman can’t just be a strong, professional leader, because who’s going to buy that? Women are mothers, right? So if she’s not going to be a mother, she needs to be a mother-figure.
Except that this argument is garbage.
Not all people are the parental types, and Judge Wright would be a better character if they’d avoided this cliché. She clearly has no interest in being a mother, as evidenced by her relief at the negative pregnancy test, so why saddle her with a maternal role in the same episode?
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Rather than see her softer side with a kid whose parents she sentenced to prison, I’d have been much more impressed seeing her prove how brilliant she is as a judge. Her creative sentencing of Chris Parnell‘s bigamist character was fun to watch and her speech was OK, but it didn’t show me why she’s allowed to get away with such terrible behavior in the workplace.
Dr. Gregory House (on Fox’s “House”) was a disaster of a human being with an even worse bedside manner, but it was accepted because he was also a brilliant diagnostician. It’s a tradition dating back to Sherlock Holmes and beyond, and it’s one that Walsh’s character seemed designed to fit into, and yet where’s the brilliance?
Instead, she’s running from one hackneyed cliché to the next, spouting off uninspired bits of dialogue that failed to elicit even half a smile. Not only uninspired, but also overused.
After getting caught saying something embarrassing in public, Rebecca tries to play it off, saying, “That’s a song, you guys. ‘If it makes you feel any better, this is your hickey, Gary.'”
How many times has that joke been done? And it’s one of the better ones in the show — which is a nice way of saying they’re all terrible. After burping at a parent-teacher conference with that same kid, she tells his teacher, “I’m so sorry, I had wine and cake for breakfast.”
Get it? Because she’s Bad. Like in the title. She’s a Bad … Judge. I mean, right?
Maybe we’re supposed to find it all endearing, but Judge Wright just came across as pathetic in the whole thing. Perhaps Walsh is too strong of a dramatic actress, and she’s simply playing the role too straight. What’s supposed to be “I can’t stay mad at you” is instead “You need to get it together.”
Maybe if that was the story, then there would be a compelling hook, as she tries to climb out of the hell hole that is her personal life. But no, the episode ends with Rebecca winning the day and coming out the hero, justifying her haphazard lifestyle choices.
And with no supporting characters of any note thus far, no outstanding feats of brilliance from its lead, and no conflicts between anybody, the pilot just kind of left me feeling blah.
What am I coming back for? Oh that’s right. I’m not.
“Bad Judge” airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.