Friday, December 5, 2008


I came in late to the "Boston Legal" tea party. Though I had never watched it’s parent show, "The Practice", I had always meant to watch the spinoff since I heard William Shatner talking about it on Howard Stern (when the new series had the working title of "Fleet Street"). I caught it midway through season two, and then it wasn’t for series stars Shatner, James Spader, but episode guest star Michael J. Fox. To my pleasant surprise, the series regulars included some old TV friends: Rene Auberjoinois (“Benson”), Candice Bergen (“Murphy Brown”) and the delicious Julie Bowen (“Ed”). So I stuck with it, and enjoyed the three seasons to follow.

“Boston Legal” ends Monday night with back-to-back episodes on ABC, ending an abbreviated fifth season. It’s a leaner cast, down to just six lawyers from last year’s nine. Cast changes were the norm, and the only survivors from season one are show stars William Shatner and James Spader. Their roles brought both actors their largest acclaim, with five Emmy nominations and two wins for Shatner as Denny Crane, four Emmy nominations and three wins for Spader as Alan Shore. My wife, Jill, always asked me while I watch this show. It's the polar opposite of my politics. In fact, it continually assaulted and insulted my beliefs and ideals. It went out of its way to make liberal ideas and causes seem like the obvious choice and those who do not agree are idiots. This was particularly on display when Alan Shore made his extensive closing arguments. I've fast-forwarded through most of them. The only right-wing character is Crane, portrayed often as a buffoon who's losing his mind.

That said, what keeps me watching are the people, not just the regulars but the recurring wacky judges (like Henry Gibson and Shelley Berman) and Betty White as a perpetual scofflaw. But "Boston Legal", for all it's in-your-face politics, is really the love story of two men, two friends, Denny Crane and Alan Shore. There friendship is implausible, unconventional, but honest and uplifting to both. It's also been a great showcase for Candice Bergen (Shirley Schmidt) and John Larroquette as the sane wardens of a bin of lawyer loonies. The best character, for me, is Christian Clemenson as Jerry Espenson. Jerry started out as a recurring character nicknamed 'Hands', because he was most comfortable always keeping his hands on his thighs (even while walking). He went from taking a senior partner hostage at gunpoint to becoming a partner himself with the firm. Clemenson's Emmy-winning portrayal of this sympathetic, troubled man gave us a character for the viewer to root for each week.

I'm glad we got a last chance with these characters. We even got the contrived TV Thanksgiving episode where the co-workers have dinner together, causing Shirley to exclaim, "Do we have to fight? Can't we just eat and make small talk and pretend we like each other?"

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