Wednesday, November 14, 2007

2 guys, a girl and a Boston law firm

Hanks and I are currently hooked on Boston Legal, producer David E. Kelley's most recent contribution to prime time TV. The legal dramedy series is a cross between 2 of Kelley's previous law-themed shows, Ally McBeal and The Practice. Or as I like to put it, it's Ally McBeal without the annoying hang-ups, and The Practice with a sense of humor.

Like all David E. Kelley shows, Boston Legal is driven by its larger-than-life characters, portrayed by an ensemble of talented actors. Though the cast has gained and lost members over 4 seasons, it's the 3 mainstays who bring "it" to the table. James Spader (love, love, LOVE him!) is as brilliant as ever as Alan Shore, the sharp, sarcastic lawyer with unconventional-- bordering on unethical-- tactics, a penchant for long but compelling closing arguments, an insatiable libido, and a heart of gold which he tries valiantly to conceal with his sleazy ways. Spader first appeared as Alan on the final season of The Practice, lending the series on its last legs enough strength to make a graceful exit, and paving the way for Boston Legal to take over. Candice Bergen brings shades of her acerbic Murphy Brown persona to her role as Shirley Schmidt, the only name partner in the firm of Crane, Poole and Schmidt who still has control of her mental faculties. It's delightful to see a mature actress like Bergen play a woman in power, acting not only as the voice of reason in the show, but as the unwilling, unyielding object of lust of many of the male characters, both old and young(er). And William Shatner... hoo boy. I never thought I'd live to see the day when I'd respect Shatner as an actor, but then Captain James T. Kirk turned into THE Denny Crane, and I was converted. Kooky, erratic, irresponsible, egotistical, lecherous, chauvinistic, and a gun-wielding, trigger-happy Republican to boot, Denny should by all rights be exasperating, irritating, and downright infuriating, but then why is he so damn lovable? Even the persistent declaring of his own name fails to get on my nerves!

And then there's Denny's friendship with Alan, which is in my opinion one of the best representations of true friendship on television today (when 2 grown men dress up in identical flamingo costumes on Halloween, it's got to be the real thing). Each episode closes with the 2 of them on Denny's office balcony, smoking cigars and drinking scotch, in a moment of male bonding, and also a chance for introspection and reflection. The candor between the 2 friends, their apparent affection for each other, and the underlying tenderness beneath the masculine bravado and intellectual discussion... they all lend an air of honesty to those last few minutes of each show, a genuineness rarely seen on TV anymore, even on so-called "reality" programs.

I also enjoy the funny, unexpected "meta-references" the characters would sometimes drop, such as when
Alan says to Denny, "Ah, there you are. I've hardly seen you this episode." Another example: in the 2nd episode of Season 3, upon being introduced to a new partner and a new associate, Denny pronounced, "Impossible. If there were new guys they would have shown up in the season premiere." In yet another instance, Alan muses, "These past few years I've felt this inexplicable compulsion to be somewhat redeeming as if I were some series regular on a television show." And once when Alan and Denny meet on the balcony in the middle of the episode, Denny wryly remarks, "Show over already?" There are also many sly Star Trek references throughout the series ("What am I supposed to do? Beam myself to Boston every morning?"), and indeed, a few guest stars share Star Trek creds with William Shatner and Rene Auberjonois (Odo from Deep Space Nine), who plays staid, sensible-- and in my opinion, underappreciated-- managing partner Paul Lewiston.

Right now Hanks is in the middle of downloading the last few remaining episodes of Season 3 of Boston Legal, and I'm trying to control my impatience and trying not to miss Alan and Denny too much. Unlike its Kelley predecessors Ally McBeal, which became gimmicky and tiresome after the first 2 seasons, and The Practice, which lost its intensity and edge when Bobby Donnell (Dylan McDermott) lost his mojo, Boston Legal seems to keep getting better with each episode. Sure, it's frequently chaotic, occasionally offensive, sometimes silly, and
often insane. But it sure as hell is fun to watch.

And best of all, there's no creepy dancing baby.


At Wednesday, November 14, 2007, Blogger Sean said...

The dancing baby ruined all memory of Ally McBeal for me, yes.



... Not... that... I watched the show, mind you.

At Wednesday, November 14, 2007, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

Ooga shaka, ooga ooga ooga shaka... :p


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