Picks and Pans Review: Steve Martini's

updated 05/07/2001 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/07/2001 AT 01:00 AM EDT

The Judge
NBC (Sun.-Mon., May 6-7, 9 p.m. ET)

Show of the week

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Though it seems trite and sluggish in the early going, resist the urge to tune out this two-part adaptation of Steve Martini's novel. In the second half the courtroom drama gathers momentum and star Chris Noth makes it more watchable by shedding an unattractive mustache.

Sex and the City's Mr. Big plays Paul Madriani, an aggressive lawyer who opens the film by drawing a contempt sentence from flinty Judge Armando Acosta (Edward James Olmos). But when Acosta is charged with murder, who's he gonna call? Joined on the defense team by an ex-girlfriend (Lolita Davidovich), Madriani does his best to outmaneuver the conceited state's attorney (John Terry) while foiling frame-up efforts by a thoroughly corrupt police force. Credibility is sometimes lacking, but the Acosta trial develops into a crowd pleaser when the presiding judge (Charles Durning, snapping and roaring) and the jurist-defendant both try to run the show.

Bottom Line: Ruled admissible

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