Said kid (Hunter Doohan) starts off the eight-episode run by braking badly, killing another youth in a hit-and-run accident. He confesses to his dad, but the initial plan to do the right thing, lawyer up and seek leniency is quickly jettisoned when Cranston’s Michael Desiato learns the dead lad’s father is Jimmy Baxter (“Call Me By Your Name’s” Michael Stuhlbarg), described as “the head of the most vicious crime family in the history of this city.” And it’s New Orleans, so that’s saying something.
As a judge, Michael has the resources and knowledge to shield his boy, while warning that they must perpetuate the lies forever, “or we die.” The question becomes whether they can stick to the plan, and how much collateral damage the Desiatos will tolerate to sustain it.
Those represent thorny choices, with Michael’s connected pal (“The Wire’s” Isiah Whitlock Jr.) and a high-priced defense lawyer (Carmen Ejogo) serving as key figures in his orbit.
As adapted from an Israeli drama by a producing team that includes Peter Moffat and “The Good Wife” creators Robert and Michelle King, the 10-part limited series grinds along slowly through its first four episodes, which test Michael’s mettle while establishing that Baxter and his wife (Hope Davis) aren’t the types to retreat into their pain and move on.
Cranston played a sort-of version of this scenario in “Breaking Bad,” which charted its protagonist’s spiritual decay as he sought to provide for his family — there, facing a fatal cancer diagnosis. Although handsomely mounted, this project feels tepid by comparison, yielding a modest level of tension while waiting to see what shoes drop next.
“Your Honor” does give off a sense that for all his efforts, the widowed judge — a status that appears to heighten his sense of responsibility to the boy — isn’t so much forestalling tragedy but merely redirecting and postponing it.
The result is a show whose trappings and talent are too classy to be dismissed, but thanks to the familiar situations and unhurried pace, doesn’t prove distinctive enough to earn an unqualified judgment.
“Your Honor” premieres Dec. 6 at 10 p.m. on Showtime.