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'Bad Judge' review: Kate Walsh is out of order, and it works

John Ducey as Tom and Kate Walsh as

John Ducey as Tom and Kate Walsh as Rebecca in the pilot for "Bad Judge." Credit: NBC / John Fleenor

THE SHOW "Bad Judge"

WHEN | WHERE Premieres Thursday night at 9 on NBC/4

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Rock and roll judge! Can I get a hey-YAH hey-YAH! Can I get some wine and cake for breakfast and "late night on Cinemax?" How 'bout some cray-cray (head) cases in court and common sense from the bench?

That's the ticket for "Bad Judge," the new comedy in which Kate Walsh cuts loose after being trapped all those years on "Private Practice." Battling hangovers in black lingerie, she's a next-generation justice succeeding '80s-'90s romp "Night Court." Where Harry Anderson's Harry Stone (the show is rerun weeknights on Encore Classic) was the magic man-turned- levelheaded jurist, Walsh plays Rebecca Wright as a hot child in the city, heavy on recreational sex and altered consciousness.

She could well be the "Little Miss Train Wreck" that a colleague calls her, or the "workaholic freak show" she calls herself. But it works, since she knows her job cold and gets ace assistance from her best-pal bailiff (Tone Bell, "Whitney"), her benevolently annoyed supervisor (Miguel Sandoval, "Medium"), and a trial "expert" shrink who's also her sometime guy (Ryan Hansen, "Veronica Mars").

MY SAY Thursday's pilot episode flies by, somewhat retooled and significantly improved from an earlier version that went 12 directions at once. Next week's episode nails down such character specifics as Rebecca's hots for hunks but need for smarts, and her easy insight into court cases that fails to extend to her own case of all-over-the-place.

She's fun and funky, nonjudgmentally, the way guys get to be in films by, say, Adam McKay and Will Ferrell, who executive-produce this series. And the "Funny or Die" duo makes this zesty, single-camera comedy speak to adults by letting their lead be one. Does "Bad Judge" sometimes go as overboard as its character? Yes. But they go together. And they balance the scales. For every semi-moralizing moment of personal irony, there's a beer in Rebecca's coat pocket.

BOTTOM LINE Pop the top, and chug.

GRADE B+

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