'The Defenders' cast on morons and strippers

jerry-o-connell-jim-belushi-tca-gi-320.jpg "The Defenders" may be considered a legal drama, but the TCA press tour panel on Wednesday (July 28) has the TV critics laughing.

The new CBS procedural, which will premiere Wednesday, Sept. 22, centers on two dedicated Las Vegas defense attorneys.

Nick Morelli ( Jim Belushi) needs to see if he can fix his marriage, while Pete Kaczmarek ( Jerry O'Connell) turns to the Vegas strip for his amorous pursuits. Lisa Tyler (Jurnee Smollett) put herself through law school as an exotic dancer, but now wants to get serious as a new young attorney. Sophie (Tanya Fischer) rounds out the workplace as their sassy assistant.

In researching the show, Belushi had watched the documentary that a few of the show's producers had made about public defenders in Las Vegas.

"They're put in the position to defend people they don't like," he says. "They have strong character and a strong sense of duty. But these guys are such characters. They're so bright and have great strategy in the courtroom. It's interesting to me that they're so brilliant but are morons with women."

His co-star O'Connell actually spent one semester in night school studying law, which helped with the show, but he had to stop pursuing that in order to act.

"It was invaluable ... it was a lot of work," he observes. "There was more reading than anyone should have to do. It was really difficult, but I made friends for the rest of my life."

Unlike Smollett's character, Fischer says that Sophie is not formerly a stripper, but "I'm sure my cousin is. Yeah."

Belushi, lately of "According to Jim," is in a mood during the session, and cracks jokes constantly. He appears to be obsessed with the show shooting on the CBS Radford lot. Not only does he announce there's a Starbucks on the lot and five sushi restaurants all close by on Ventura Blvd., but apparently Stage 9 is the same stage he worked on for "Jim."

"It's about the life too," he explains and then adds as a parting shot, "After party at CBS Radford!"

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