The Defenders TV Poster Image

The Defenders



Charismatic lawyers defend clients, Vegas style.
  • Network: CBS
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1961

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Although the series highlights the lawyers' commitment to defending their clients, it also plays up and glamorizes the Las Vegas lifestyle -- including gambling, drinking, and showgirl-ogling.

Positive role models

Morelli and Kaczmarek are dedicated to their clients, but they occasionally use questionable tactics to win their cases. And Kaczmarek very much enjoys the Las Vegas lifestyle, coming across as something of a playboy.


The duo defends people who are charged with violent crimes like kidnapping, assault, and murder. Some of these crimes are discussed in detail.


Some strong sexual innuendo. Women are seen in their underwear and wearing skimpy showgirl costumes. References are made to stripping, lap dancing, and other adult-oriented behaviors. One of the characters used to be an adult entertainer.


Words like “ass” and “hell” are audible.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Frequent alcohol consumption (cocktails, champagne, etc.). Nick Morelli has a preference for martinis. Legal cases sometimes deal with drug-related crimes.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that while this legal/courtroom dramedy is entertaining, it revolves around the world of the Las Vegas strip -- so there's lots of gambling, drinking (cocktails, champagne), and other adult-oriented activities (references to stripping, lap dances, etc.). Expect some strong sexual innuendo and images of people undressing and in their underwear. Words like “ass” and “hell” are audible, and violent crimes like kidnapping, assault, and murder are discussed.

Kids say

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What's the story?

THE DEFENDERS stars Jim Belushi and Jerry O’Connell as Nick Morelli and Pete Kaczmarek, two Las Vegas attorneys who -- despite their very different personalities -- share the same commitment to fight for the clients they're representing. Helping the dynamic defense duo is Lisa Tyler (Jurnee Smollet), a recent law school graduate whose past life as an adult entertainer sometimes keeps her from being taken seriously. Meanwhile, the firm’s quirky office assistant, Zoe Waters (Tanya Fischer), manages to keep order. Outside the courtroom, Morelli struggles to cope with his relationship with his estranged wife, Jessica (Gillian Vigman), while Kaczmarek takes advantage of some of pleasures the Strip has to offer.

Is it any good?


The show -- which is based on real-life Las Vegas attorneys Michael Cristalli and Marc Saggese -- couches its storylines within the context of Las Vegas' infamous culture ... and the tough laws that govern it. But while the series deals with serious subjects like assault, drug trafficking, immigration, and murder, it also has its fair share of quirky moments and mischievous adult behavior.

The discussions featured here aren’t as technical as in other legal dramas, and some of the climactic moments are a bit theatrical. But overall, it offers up courtroom entertainment that's both interesting and indulgent.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how this show compares to other legal dramas. What do they tend to have in common? What (if anything) sets this one apart?

  • What makes Las Vegas so appealing to so many people? How does the media typically portray Vegas life? Do you think practicing law in Las Vegas is any different from practicing law anywhere else in the United States? Why or why not?

TV details

Premiere date:September 16, 1961
Cast:James Belushi, Jerry O'Connell, Jurnee Smollett
TV rating:TV-14
Available on:Streaming

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What parents and kids say

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Parent of a 16 year old Written byHoova10 December 30, 2010

Best law drama since law and order

This show is absolutely brilliant, by far the best law type tv show since law and order hit the scene in 1990. This is a perfect show for all families to watch because it gives younger kids the insight into what can happen to law breakers while also keeping it instilled into their minds that there are still people who genuinely show others compassion(as Pete and Nick do to their clients here) and work as hard as they possibly can to help others. It's also a great depiction of the courtroom and how our justice system works. I pray every night that this show doesn't get taken off the air until every bit of greatness is squeezed out of this. Also nick and Pete together remind of young Jake briggains(Carl lee halee's lawyer from A Time To Kill) very brilliant and snappy lawyers. Excellent, excellent tv show.


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