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‘Your Honor’ keeps breaking in a bad direction

Bryan Cranston with Hunter Doohan in "Your Honor."
Bryan Cranston with Hunter Doohan in "Your Honor."Skip Bolen/Showtime

I think I may be the only viewer who is obsessed with Showtime’s “Your Honor,” by which I mean obsessed with how thoroughly disappointing and silly it is. I understand the desire to somehow bring Bryan Cranston back to TV, and I also understand, more grudgingly, the choice to put him in a vehicle that recalls “Breaking Bad.” The guy really knows how to play fierce desperation and the darkly clever ingenuity it takes to get out of tight spots.

But what a shoddy vehicle. As in “Breaking Bad,” the stakes keep getting higher as Cranston’s character, Judge Michael Desiato, keeps coming up with new lies and angles to cover up his teen son’s role in the death of a mobster’s son. At this point, each episode is absurdly packed with new twists and related deaths in order to heighten the tension and keep the pace up. One of the best strengths of “Breaking Bad” was the way it so confidently took its time.


Most recently, in episode 7 (of 10) on Sunday, Michael promises the gangster, Michael Stuhlbarg’s Jimmy Baxter, that he’ll preside over his other son’s murder trial, then gets the assigned judge arrested for basically driving while Black. In that same hour, Michael and Jimmy get rid of the body of the man blackmailing Michael — in broad daylight. Meanwhile, despite the distractions regarding his son and the murders and all, Michael appears to be falling in love with a justice-driven lawyer, and his son is falling for Jimmy’s daughter, the sister of the dead son, and coping with a relationship with a teacher. And there are more balls in the air, too.

It’s over-plotted and too unbelievable, as if the simple straightforward story would not have been enough. Watching low-key Walter White slowly become someone because he’s become a bad guy is quite different, and a lot more interesting, than watching Michael Desiato turn from a good guy (who’s a local star of sorts) into a bad guy overnight. Cranston isn’t the problem, even though he tends to turn the volume up too high on his performance; it’s the script. The writing isn’t boring, so much as it’s trying too hard not to be boring. The only part that I unequivocally like is Hope Davis. She brings an archness to her role as mob wife that veers on camp.


Matthew Gilbert can be reached at matthew.gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.