-MONTHLY VHS & DVD REVIEW-
Boston Legal season one|
cast: James Spader, William Shatner, Candice Bergen, Rene Auberjonois, and Monica Potter
creator: David E. Kelley
697 minutes (12) 2004 widescreen ratio 1.78:1
20th Century Fox DVD Region 2 retail
reviewed by Donald Morefield
This comedy drama is a sequel or replacement, or spin-off TV series from The Practice
(1997 - 2004), also created by David E. Kelley, who is probably best known to British viewers
as creator of the popular Ally McBeal (1997 - 2002). The Practice was about
lawyers in Boston, and reportedly featured both William Shatner and James Spader as guest
stars. Here, they get their own show as the unlikely and yet tremendously entertaining
double-act of Alan Shore and Denny Crane, respectively. They are sharp-suited, arrogant
barristers. They are boastful womanisers. They are gifted legal eagles with a knack for
ensuring that obviously guilty criminals go free, and for winning ethical civil cases
worthy of media hype. They are intensely funny, but often conflicted, frequently smug in
a sad way, and tragically stupid men. They are the business...
Every humorous TV show needs a straight man, and the thankless task of playing senior manager,
Paul Lewiston, falls to Rene Auberjonois (perhaps best known to all viewers for his role as
alien shape-shifter Odo in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine). His gravely voiced intonation
and sober demeanour is perfect casting as dramatic foil for Shore and Crane's comedic shenanigans.
Monica Potter (of Saw)
portrays the legal offices' smart and omni-competent blonde, Lori Colson, with a cool but certainly
not icy assurance. Eye-candy for the boys is Sally Heep (Lake Bell, who is unfortunately written
out of the show after a dozen episodes, perhaps due to the actress' complete lack of chemistry with
any of her male co-stars?) and Tara Wilson (British starlet Rhona Mitra, a transfer from The
Practice). Eye candy for the girls is Brad Chase (Mark Valley, a square-jawed ex-serviceman
and Gulf War veteran). Those are the other good reasons for watching Boston Legal, but Alan
Shore and Denny Crane (repeat, with feeling, 'Denny Crane') stubbornly remain the show's primary
The law firm's name is 'Crane, Poole and Schmidt'. We meet senior partner Edwin Poole (Larry
Miller) in the series' first episode, but he's soon gone, wheeled out the door on a paramedic's
gurney and shipped off to the funny farm after a total psych breakdown. After Crane (yes, 'Denny
Crane', of just say my name, infamy) is established as the dominant head-case, the TV programme's
makers knew they would need a bankable someone of undoubted screen presence to contrast with, or
complement, the portly Shatner, and so classy Candice Bergen
Starting Over, Rich & Famous) was recruited as the superbly brash Shirley
Schmidt, a formidably spirited businesswoman capable of trading sarcastic barbs and amorous
jibes with eternally-teenage septuagenarian Denny Crane. Although she does not join the Boston
Legal party until halfway through season one, Bergen's quietly dynamic Schmidt is a most
welcome addition to the team, and definitely worth the wait.
What makes Boston Legal work surprisingly well as TV entertainment, is the mix of
engagingly comedic and affecting character-based drama, fielded with scripted material
tackling many notable issues of the day, from the legal system's burden of frivolous
litigation, to astute dissections of everything from sexual harassment to capital punishment.
This is the show that introduces the world's most unlikely (despite being plainly inspired
by Norman Bates) serial killer, and a judge who is all-too-easily corruptible. Its courtroom
battles and witness quizzing clashes take more controversial angles on objectionable issues
(from 'mad cow' disease, and a transvestite Santa, to cryogenic euthanasia, and a hypochondriac
suing his doctor for malpractice) than any straightforward cops, docs or lawyers drama has dared
in recent times. Boston Legal also enjoys the dubious privilege of hosting the first ever,
satisfactory guest appearance (and I never thought I'd say so), from Freddie Prinze Jr!
If you're as bored as I am with the stupefying realism of all the courtroom dramas currently
showing on British TV, give this anarchic, button-pushing series a try.
The DVD boxset has 17 episodes on five discs. Extras include deleted scenes and commentary
tracks, plus two exclusive (yet self-explanatory) featurettes - Court Is Now In Session:
How Boston Legal Came To Be, and An Unlikely Pair: Alan Shore And Denny Crane.