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TCA Press Tour: 'The Defenders' gets a scripted makeover

July 28, 2010 |  3:53 pm

99103_D1854bm This is the true story of a group of defense attorneys partying it up in Las Vegas.

Sounds like the perfect idea for a reality show, right?

Not quite.

Before the drama starring Jerry O’Connell and Jim Belushi as two macho Vegas defense attorneys found a home on CBS’ fall schedule it started out life as yet another docu-series.

“[The show] was originally a reality series in development at Fox about two real-life Vegas attorneys,” CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler said during the tour’s executive session. “It was pitched to us as a reality series, and we didn’t quite see it that way. We loved the characters but used it as an inspiration to develop a scripted drama.” 

Belushi, who stars as Nick Morelli, said his character – like O’Connell’s Pete Kaczmarek – stays true to the source material. 

“These guys are like the characters in the original documentary. They have strategies in the courtroom. They’re put in a position where they have to defend guys that most people don’t like,” Belushi said. “[But] in their real lives they’re not so good -- they are bad with women. That intrigued me. They are great -- we hang out with these guys ... they can hold their liquor.”

Harry Gantz, who shot the documentary alongside brother Joe (both serve as executive producers of the series), said he doesn’t believe the essence of the story was lost and was pleased with the outcome.

“It wasn’t a concession, it was a great opportunity. We had been working on getting similar documentaries for about eight years. We were just thrilled,” Gantz said. “It had a lot of the spirit of the documentary. We were just so glad that it was taken this turn. It’s a much different approach.”

-- Gerrick D. Kennedy

Photo: Jim Belushi, left, and Jerry O'Connell. Credit: CBS
 

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