Courtroom hits like “L.A. Law,” “Ally McBeal” and “The Practice” defined the network television landscape of the ’90s. But with the recent advent of reality TV and a slew of over-the-top crime dramas, such programming seems somewhat passe. Now bigwigs at Fox, tired of continually stealing other networks’ reality ideas, decided to take audiences on a trip back in time with “Head Cases,” a new “dramedy” featuring Chris O’Donnell (“Batman and Robin”) and Adam Goldberg (“The Hebrew Hammer”). To the extreme distress of Calista Flockhart devotees the world over, the results are none too pretty.
“Head Cases” opens with Jason Payne (O’Donnell) struggling to balance work and family life. Like many other workaholics, Payne is kicked out of the house by his caring but angry wife, who leaves him alone and abandoned in a hotel room. Naturally, after calling his wife and screaming into the answering machine, Payne collapses to the ground, suffering a stress-related nervous breakdown. The story picks up months later, on the day of Payne’s release from a mental institution. Not everything goes smoothly, though, as Payne must participate in a sort of “buddy system” (apparently just as common with mental patients as with Boy Scouts) and finds himself paired with Schulz, a quirky, quick-to-anger lawyer (Goldberg) who specializes in cases involving disreputable women.
As the show stretches on, Schulz and Payne are forced to work together, eventually leading both lawyers to realize the strength of their blossoming friendship. At episode’s end, the two men enter into practice together, guaranteeing viewers months of painfully contrived jokes and blase courtroom antics.
There’s really nothing to appreciate about “Head Cases.” The “heartwarming” family moments, in which Payne attempts to reconnect with his son, appear forced, while the drama of the courtroom comes across as anything but believable. Even Goldberg’s comedic talents are wasted. To make matters worse, audiences will question whether the show is a comedy or a drama. Most scenes involve a painful interaction between Payne and Schulz, highlighted by Goldberg’s feeble attempts at slapstick comedy and O’Donnell’s failure to come across as anything more than a Ken doll.
Neither funny nor truly engaging, “Head Cases” fails on pretty much every level. Audiences looking for entertainment on Wednesday nights should avoid Fox’s latest clunker.
Rating: 1 1/2 out of 5 stars