David E. Kelley can sleep soundly at night as he can add yet another notch to his bedpost with Boston Legal. The executive producer of hits such as Chicago Hope, Picket Fences, Ally McBeal, Boston Public and The Practice, here older is most certainly wiser. For those of you less familiar with the premise of BL as the opening sequence is attempting to abbreviate, Legal is a spin-off of The Practice which ended it’s seven-season run last year. In fact, Legal (not really feeling the BL) actually began last year under the guise of “The Practice.” Last year’s law firm, clientele, cases (yes, they still have them) and inter-office drama resembled nothing of its previous years. In fact, let’s call it Boston Legal: Prologue since that’s what it was. With Bobby and Lindsay (Kelli Williams) gone, it was up to Camryn Manheim’s Ellenor and Steve Harris’ Eugene to carry the torch. However, with the introduction of James Spader as the its-good-to-be-bad-and-have-no-ethics attorney Alan Shore, Ellenor and Eugene didn’t hold a candle. Sure, there were others on the show – Jimmy, Rebecca, Lucy – boring, boring, boring. Alan Shore began to spike things up a bit with his less than traditional methods of practicing law. He had an affair with a client, used bribery to achieve victory in settlements and engaged in constant flirtation with new cast-member hottie’s such as Tara (Rhona Mitra) and Sally (Lake Bell). However, all is not lost. At the heart of this seemingly sleazy attorney, is, professionally, a man trying to achieve the best result for his clients and, personally, a man on the verge of a breakdown (most of his actions are personally self-destructive). A self-destructive lawyer who is morally ambiguous = good television. Taking the helm from Dylan McDermott, who was part of the mysterious mass wipeout of approximately half of the original cast, Spader’s Alan Shore is essentially the anti-Bobby. He’s vulnerable, eccentric, unethical, unstable and insecure. In short, he’s the best lawyer we’ve yet to see on the small screen. Spader was also joined in cameo appearances by Captain James T. Kirk himself, Star Trek alum William Shatner as the ubiquitous, wealthy and seemingly feeble-minded Denny Crane. In fact, by the end of last season, we were entirely uncertain if Mr. Crane ever practiced law since the only activity we saw him practicing was himself, literally stating “I’m Denny Crane…Denny Crane here” in nearly every scene. Well, Mr. Crane is back – and, in full form. Last week’s premiere episode of Boston Legal opened with Denny Crane in the middle of a personal and professional scandal – he was having an affair with the wife of his highest-paying client. The client, of course, wanted to hire a private investigator to seek out the culprit, which Denny Crane naturally tried to avoid. Since newcomer Lori Colson (Monica Potter) was handling the case, he asked her to convince the client not to pursue a P.I. Lori’s approach, knowing her client to be a womanizer with a flare for young beautiful young women, was to ask Tara (Rhona Mitra) for assistance. Lori, in an effort to convince and avert Ernie’s attention from the P.I., tells Tara: “You’re hot, nasty hot – men leave their wives for you hot. You can file your sexual harassment suit tomorrow. Right now, go in there and flirt.” Though Lori seems to be one of the more morally abiding lawyers so far, it’s good to know she’s not above maximizing her resources.
When the client, Ernie, discovers that it is Crane himself who is sleeping with his wife, he shows up in his office with a gun. To which Crane slyly responds, “You know people come in here all the time who want to kill me. Know what I tell them? Go ahead – shoot.” A self-professed legacy with seemingly little substance, Shatner’s egotistical Crane is nothing if not likeable. And like Alan, Denny Crane is has already shown signs of vulnerability. In an intimate closing scene between Alan and Denny Crane, Alan asks if he is scared. Denny Crane is silent for a moment and then says that he does not believe in “tomorrow.” They are silent, toast to “no tomorrow’s” and the scene ends. I will not even begin to analyze that moment – especially not after the first episode. But, the more vulnerable, the more we can identify and sympathize. Their idiosyncrasies and under-the-table antics make them interesting to watch and their insecurities make them real. Well done, writers. Finally, a law show with actual characters.
Rhona Mitra reprises her role as the sharp, sexy and strong Tara who misses nothing and yet always seems to have the attention of everyone. Her confidence and quick-wit is enticing and respectable. Writers? Let’s see more. I’ll give it a few weeks but Tara has scandal or at least triangle written all over – or for now, around – her. Don’t let her get stuck in the reliable role. Frankly, and this is being written by a woman keep in mind, she’s too damn hot for that. Leave it to Lori – if you really need someone there. Though there’s a possible Mark-Lori and Alan interest brewing there already. We shall have to watch closely for the inter-office triangle development.
To round out the cast of women, Lake Bell returns as the insecure Sally and pseudo-girlfriend of Alan Shore. Though it is Tara who always seems to be the ‘apple-of-Alan’s-eye,’ it is Sally who pursued him and Sally who he is dating. Sally, of course, has her own past and skeletons to contend with. We quickly learn that she has dated or rather had affairs with a long list of less-than-stellar men prior to teaming up with the eccentric Alan Shore. More importantly, we learn that she has had an affair with newcomer Brad Chase of the DC office. Though visiting in the premiere episode, Brad, of course will be making his stay in Boston permanent courtesy of upper management’s request. Brad is played by Keen Eddie veteran Mark Valley who’s beautifully chiseled chin, blond hair and blue eyes have him labeled as a Ken Doll look-alike by the not-so-chiseled yet oddly charming Alan Shore. Do I sense competition? I certainly hope so. Though it is truly beneath Alan’s character to engage in any form of jealous of competition (for gals or anything else) among his colleagues and peers, a rumble does seem to be brewing. At one point, Alan looks up, notes the body language and banter between Sally and Brad and exclaims, “You two have had sex!” Indeed they have. Sally, clearly not the one to end the affair, all but propositions Brad near a bookshelf in an office corner. Yes, she is ‘with’ Alan now, but c’mon, who wouldn’t want to just “confirm” that there’s nothing left with Brad? Smart girl. While Sally’s insecurities are kind of annoying, she has opened the season with a love-sex triangle in place. This wins Sally a few points – for now – to stand in for her seemingly endless annoying traits. Perhaps she’ll surprise us yet – though my money’s on Tara.
Alan may be the anti-Bobby but Brad is the anti-Alan. A lawyer with a conscience and rule book, he is a rarity in this legal office – and Alan’s opposite. Their rivalry begins in the very first scene. Brad is standing up in a meeting where he has set down papers on the table to claim a seat. Alan walks in, pushes them down two chairs and sits down at the table. Brad looks up as if to ask, what the hell are you doing? Alan looks at him and says, “we’re not territorial about that sort of thing, are we?” A line later repeated by Brad when Alan learns of his relationship with Sally. Bring it, baby. Bring it.
Sure – there’s one more main character – this guy Paul who looks older than Denny and seems to have the relationship with the “Board” but yet is presented as junior in rank. Either way, the gist is: he wants Denny out and feels he’s a liability. That said, anything else related to Paul is just boring. Moving on.
Finally, Sharon Lawrence makes the transition from the NYPD to the courtroom with her cameo or perhaps first appearance as Judge, presiding over case of the African-American child denied the part of Annie in a school play due to her race and “not being right for the part.” Reverend Al Sharpton makes a cameo and courtroom speech in the child’s defense. Ultimately the child is granted the role a few nights per month. Lastly, a man tries to deny his wife and kids the opportunity to leave the state because well, he’s evil. Not to worry – Alan blackmails him into a settlement, permitting the family to leave and being their lives in a new state. Needless to say, it’s going to get interesting.
While loyal fans were disappointed with the transition from The Practice to Legal: Prologue and ultimately the spin-off Boston Legal which premiered last weekend, Legal has attracted an whole new audience, myself included, and is on its way to becoming a must-see part of the Sunday night line-up. Personally, I’m not into law shows. But this is one legal drama with a kick. Alan Shore is so bad that he’s good – at least, good to watch – which in television, is all that you need. Denny Crane seems to support this blurred view of morality in law and good for him. Even better for us. There’s a host of new and notably attractive faces to watch, both male and female. Oh, for those of you who thought that this was an actual law drama, think again. This office is Melrose in suits. For you legal purists and actual lawyers out there, my condolences. As for the rest of you, clear your schedule Sunday nights 10-11PM on ABC and start watching.