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Hearing that a show has tinkered with and recast a pilot can mean welcome wholesale changes — or stuffing ballast into a sinking ship.

The new NBC comedy “Bad Judge” falls into the latter category.

LA judge Rebecca Wright (Kate Walsh) is the latest entrant into the “talented professional who is a hot mess personally” canon of TV characters. If this wasn’t obvious from the opening montage — in which we meet Wright hung over, face down in sparkly underwear as she is thrown into an aspirin and pregnancy-test panic when she wakes up late for work — it is underscored by several other characters, one of whom refers to her as “Little Miss Train Wreck.”

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The original pilot sent to critics in the summer hit several icebergs. The rearrangement of the deck chairs — including the jettisoning of two subplots that proved Wright was also a bad friend and bad mentor — in the rejiggered version, premiering Thursday at 9 p.m., does not keep the show afloat.

“Bad Judge” is also the second NBC show this fall to waste a great actress in a starring role, following “The Mysteries of Laura” with Debra Messing.

Like Messing before her, Walsh is game for trying to clean up the mess that’s been handed to her — in part by producers Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, and Anne Heche — throwing herself, with appropriate snark, sincerity, or slovenliness, headlong into Wright’s wrongs. These include, but aren’t limited to: abuse of her power, having quickies in her chambers (without locking the door), parking in a handicapped space and then pretending to limp when she sees a man in a wheelchair, and smugly handing out annoyingly goofy sentences. (She forces a bigamist to take feminism courses while wearing an “I’m a Convicted Bigamist” T-shirt.) She does all this while scarfing down junk food, drinking too much, and tooling around in a terrifically awful panel van.

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In the second episode, things go from “Bad” to worse. We’re supposed to have sympathy for her messiness, as the show draws parallels between Wright and an emotionally wounded, attention-seeking, Lohan-esque paparazzi magnet. It may be accurate that she is damaged
and medicating her pain with booze — and pot brownies — and keeping potential Mr. (W)Rights at arm’s length because she’s afraid to be vulnerable, but it’s just not funny.

Perhaps if she were the protagonist of a gritty FX or HBO drama, this might all seem interesting or colorful, but on a light NBC comedy it’s off-putting, especially since we are also supposed to buy how committed she is to caring for others and to justice.

Walsh’s gifts — put to great use recently on “Fargo” — aren’t the only ones going to waste. Ryan Hansen (the charmingly loathsome Dick Casablancas of “Veronica Mars”) as an expert medical witness and the judge’s booty-call-who-wants-more, and Ryan McPartlin (the most excellent Captain Awesome from “Chuck”) as a dim-witted fireman, are given little to work with.

No matter what the crime, no TV viewer should be sentenced to watch “Bad Judge.”


Sarah Rodman can be reached at srodman@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeRodman.