This article contains spoilers. Click here to reveal them.
If NBC’s Bad Judge, premiering tonight, were a different kind of show, its main character would already be in jail. (That would be a show worth watching.) In the first two episodes, Kate Walsh, who plays the Hon. Rebecca Wright, does a lot of bad things, but then she also rescues at-risk youth. Wright isn’t as bad as the Bad Teacher that starred Cameron Diaz, but she’s definitely badder than the Bad Teacher that aired on CBS. The show’s not quite Bad Santa, but it’s way less lovable than Bad News Bears — while trying to pretend it’s not mugging just as hard.
In the first episode, Judge Wright commits the following offenses:
-She wears jean shorts to work
-She drives (and defends driving!) a van emblazoned with a racist mural
-She uses a probably illegally obtained handicap pass
-She has sex on her desk
-She has sex on her desk during work hours
-She bribes the child of parents she sent to prison
-She threatens to “cut” a 12-year-old bully
-She teaches the aforementioned child to sucker-punch the aforementioned bully
-She gives a lenient sentence to an admitted bigamist and probable sociopath
-She brings a child to a bar at 10 p.m.
Sensing a pattern? Bad Judge, like many of the Bads before it — comedies all — treats Wright’s misbehavior with air quotes. If she weren’t already fundamentally together, who would be there to give tough love to the Lohan-lite actresses who land before her? Wright is free and fun and learning about life and herself. She doesn’t care about niceties. She cares about justice. (We know that she cares because she has to keep denying that she does.)
Walsh, at least, is having a blast where she can, burping and drugging and sending a courtroom full of paparazzi to lock-up. Too bad her show mistakes saying something outrageous with saying something funny. And all that misbehavior can’t cover over a lot of Sitcom 101 hi-jinks, including: a black sidekick, a cute colleague, a blowhard colleague, and a put-upon boss. The gold standard for this type of thing is It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which is a show that actually is insane. Bad Judge is just wasted potential: if she didn’t have to be so good, Rebecca Wright would actually be pretty good at being bad.