Saturday, December 05, 2020

Your Honor, on Showtime

The law in Louisiana is not technically based on the Napoleonic Code (a common misconception), but it is considerably different from most state law. Less bound by precedent, it gives judges much more interpretive latitude (that sort of sounds like the New Orleans way, doesn’t it?). Judge Michael Desiato is considered one of the more enlightened arbiters of the law. He cares about justice, but he loves his son more, so the judge uses all his knowledge of the justice system to protect him in Your Honor, creator Peter Moffat’s adaptation of the Israeli TV show Kvodo, which premieres tomorrow on Showtime.

It was already a fateful day—the anniversary of the death of Desiato’s wife. Unfortunately, it quickly gets much worse for their son Adam. He just wanted a private commemoration, but he takes a wrong turn through gang territory. Due to the resulting stress, he suffers a serious asthma attack, during which he accidentally collides with a motorcyclist. It turns out that was the son of notorious mob boss, Jimmy Baxter, whom he leaves for dead in his panic.

Judge Desiato had convinced his son to turn himself in, but he aborts that plan when he discovers the identity of the victim. Instead, the jurist opts to conceal his son’s involvement, fearing the Baxters’ reprisals. He is a lot better equipped and informed to perpetrate a cover than the Kennedys after Chappaquiddick, but he still misses a lot. Things get messy, in terms of unintended costs and consequences by the end of the second episode (out of ten), but Desiato has no choice but to keep digging.

Bryan Cranston has instant credibility as Judge Desiato and the New Orleans locations add a great deal of pizzaz. The supporting cast is also mostly strong and engaging. However, each one-darned-thing-after-another that Moffat tries to spring on viewers is really never particularly shocking, at least based on the first four (out of ten) episodes supplied to the press. The series certainly functions as a respectable thriller, but it is basically on the level of
Suspect, the okay 1987 Peter Yates film, starring Dennis Quaid.

Of course, Cranston is compulsively watchable as Desiato. The best moments of
Your Honor (so far) feature the craftiness he so aptly projects whenever the judge is retrieving evidence or constructing alibis (taking a page out of the playbook followed by the father in Sheep Without a Shepherd).

Michael Stulhbarg will never look very gangster, but he is still pretty chilling as Baxter, sort of a Napoleon of crime. Isiah Whitlock Jr. personifies Crescent City style and attitude as Desiato’s mayoral candidate friend (it is easy to believe people would vote for him). Yet, Margo Martindale over powers everyone as Desiato’s senator mother-in-law. On the other hand, the character of Adam Desiato is so drippy and Hunter Doohan’s portrayal is so nauseatingly over-wrought, most viewers will root for him to get mowed down by a car too (only within the on-screen narrative, mind you).

It is nice to see
Your Honor really filmed in New Orleans. Where else would you find those hugely cinematic above-ground cemeteries? Twenty-five years ago, this show would have been a sensation, but now it is just a nice showcase for Cranston. Recommended for his fans, Your Honor starts tomorrow (12/6) on Showtime.