A defense brief on behalf of 'Boston Legal'

14587__betty_lIs Boston Legal the most preposterous show on television… or just the most entertaining? And if it’s one,  the other, or both… why is nobody talking about it? I’m actually convinced that there’s a silent minority of Legal fans out there — and if you are, please pipe up — who watch the show on a weekly basis yet keep its immeasurable charms to themselves. I know I’m one of them.

ABC keeps Boston Legal in its arsenal but never drags it out for display, what with those housewives and doctors and dancing stars and brothers and sisters and Others taking up so much of their promotional time. Which must explain how David E. Kelley gets away with writing a show that plays like the perfect mix of The Practice‘s bleeding-heart ethos and Ally McBeal‘s flights of fancy. In fact, I’d venture to say that one crisp, fast-moving hour of Legal is more wholly satisfying than Desperate Housewives‘ endless parade of idiocy (can we just get rid of Nora, already?), Brothers & Sisters‘ too-crowded family saga, and any of ABC’s unfortunate reality TV offerings. Here’s why:

-The trials They’re compelling, timely, and often imbuedwith a tawdry twist. (The usually ultra-liberal closing arguments canannoy, but hell, at least they’re well-considered.) This season’s firststunner involved a murdered judge, her young lover, and his icky sexualattraction to his mother. It ended quickly — in less than sixepisodes! — and with a jaw-dropping mother/son French kiss. I kid you not.

-The fourth wall As in… there is none. Head on over to Wikipedia’s Boston Legal pageto see just how many times it’s gone all meta on us. And start payingcloser attention if you haven’t already noticed this wink and nod tothe perceptive viewer.

-The little lady You’ll see a shout-out to MeredithEaton-Gilden in this Friday’s new issue of EW, but she also deservesprops right here on our blog. The wee actress is a total riot asDenny’s on-again/off-again girlfriend, Bethany, and every time shecomes onscreen, well… let’s just say my neighbors know about itbecause I’m usually bellowing out something stupid like,"Betha-NYYYYYY!" and raising my fists in victory. (My cats don’t likeit, either.) Delta Burke arrives next week as her mother. Those of uswho still think Delta deserved an Emmy, Golden Globe, SAG, and People’sChoice Award for her performance as Cherry Cherry on Popular await, panting eagerly.

-Mark Valley Hey, I just like looking at his pretty face. But really, David E. Kelley, can’t you give Keen Eddie more to do?!

-The guest stars Constance Zimmer, Katey Sagal, Michael J.Fox, Heather Locklear, Rupert Everett, Anthony Heald, Leslie Jordan,Christian Clemenson, Tom Selleck, Parker Posey, Robert Wagner…need Igo on? Oh wait, yes! I do! Betty White! First of all, I must say thatwatching Betty (pictured, with James Spader) hit poor Leslie Jordan’s sniveling sadsack over the headwith a frying pan last season was a high point in my TV-watchingcareer; watching her waltz out during that bizarro boxing sequence acouple of weeks ago, totally unannounced, sent me into another fit ofdelight. What can I say? For those of us who began worshipping at thealtar of the idiot box from an early age, few shows can match Legal forhey-it’s-that-guy! delight.

Boston Legal isn’t without its problems. Nobody was piningfor Lake Bell and her boobs to return. Craig Bierko is gobbling up waytoo much scenery as the braying (and boring) new hotshot lawyer JeffreyCoho. The over-the-top antics can become grating. And at some point,it’d be nice to see Alan Shore actually try, you know, having a realrelationship that lets him act his age, not like a horny 19-year-old.What do you think? Is Boston Legal deserving of a largeraudience? Has it kept you entertained this season? And don’t you thinkBethany should become a series regular?


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  • Chaddogg

    Alan Shore (James Spader’s) cross-examination of a Scientologist a week ago should be shown as anti-brainwashing material to the Tom Cruises/Jason Lees/John Travoltas of the world. You’re right – this show is amazing.
    In closing….Denny Crane.

  • justin

    Boston Legal is an amazing show that I never miss…people should give it a try. Last nights episode had one heck of a shocker at the end……the kiss!!!!!!!

  • Fi

    Love, love love the show! The balcony scenes are my favorites; they remind me entirely too much of me and my best friend. Its scary really!

  • Shawn

    Boston Legal has become appointment TV for me. It’s outrageous and amazing all at once, and to all the Nip Tuck fans out there, watch it an hour later, and start watching Boston Legal.

  • Mary Ann

    I LOVE “Boston Legal” and I don’t use that word loosely. “The Practice” took itself way to seriously and “Ally McBeal” didn’t take itself serously enough. So what did Davide E. Kelly do? He did exactly what you said, he basically gave us the best of both worlds. A lot of people might think that the trials are unbelievable but has anyone read lately what people actually do kill for and sue for?
    My favorite part of Boston Legal is the running joke of Denny Crane and Alan Shore referring to “episodes”. Last year, Alan actually said to Denny, “I haven’t seen you much at all this “episode” and this year Denny told the new guy (one of the show’s few weaknesses) that if he were that important he would have shown up in the first “episode”. There are also slick comments about feeling like they are in one of those TV “dramas”. About Alan Shore, James Spader is perfect. I think Alan is a lost little boy and I love the fitted for the pants angle and the blow up Shirley is the greatest.
    If “Boston Legal” has any problem is that it is too smart for most people. Thank you David E. Kelly for not falling back on cliches. These people are unique. Tom Sellick’s fiance who bursts into musical soundtracks, the guy with the hands on his thighs who was upset because they took his “girlfriend” (the blow up doll) away, Betty White (need I say more), Denny Crane – one of the most original characters ever. He has no Matlock modesty or Perry Mason seriousness. Denny Crane and his mad cow and his 6 wives is one of the most original characters ever. If I want cliches, I’ll watch “Studio 60″.

  • Evie

    I love BL–I find it laugh-out-loud funny. The bleeding-heart liberal stuff gets annoying, but when there’s a wee woman lurking about, I just can’t let it bother me. I do think they keep adding unecessary people. Why give Monica Potter the boot and then bring on Frances Zimmer? Dump Coho and the frightening she-male Sally. Her orange hair is the least of her problems. And absolutely no more Betty White. Love the actress, but her character on BL wore out her welcome long ago.
    Denny Crane, indeed.

  • Stephanie

    I am a little confused here. Is Bethany played by a real dwarf? Because it just seems as if the actress when given speaking lines looks facially about 5-5’4 but when she walks it is as if a double is being used for size.
    Boston Legal is a great show anyway.

  • chelsea

    LOVE THIS SHOW. Denny Crane and Alan Shore are my favorite will they or won’t they couple. My friend and I are dressing as flamingos this Halloween in honor of last years episode

  • brandonk

    I’ve watched “Boston Legal” since it started, and I love it…It always catches me off guard when Denny Crane/Bill Shatner talks to the audience. “Denny Crane…I won an Emmy, you know!” Ha!

  • Ryan

    I was kinda thinking the same thing last night while watching. At this point, I honestly don’t think any other show entertains me like Boston Legal does. It has really come into its own in its second and third seasons. You also gotta appreciate that Boston Legal made fun of Nancy Grace before it was trendy.
    It’s nice to see that a David E. Kelley show is IMPROVING as it goes on. The first few seasons of The Practice and Picket Fences were among the greatest episodic television in history, but they slowly devolved. This happened much more quickly with Ally McBeal and Boston Public.
    The show currently has its strongest cast. The children pretending to be lawyers last year weren’t very good, and I didn’t even like Tara on The Practice. I didn’t mind Monica Potter’s character, but with the current cast in place, I don’t miss her. Whatever your feelings for Craig Bierko, you gotta love Constance Zimmer and her clever zings. I agree that Brad, and Paul for that matter, don’t get enough screentime, but when you have characters like Denny Crane and Alan Shore, you can’t complain too much. Boston Legal is great, so everybody watch it!

  • BL fan

    BL rocks in so many ways. Shatner and Spader are hilarious, and Kelley has finally balanced out his charming kookiness with actual compelling courtroom drama in a believable way. My only objection is the ongoing “everybody lusts for Candice Bergen” theme – Tom Selleck, Shatner, Spader — I don’t know, but it’s getting kind of old (like Candice Bergen). Sorry, I know I will be accused of worshiping at the Hollywood altar of youth, and there’s no question that she’s still beautiful and in great shape, and as a woman I feel guilty for even thinking it, but come on now – lust-inducing? Other than that suspension of disbelief, I LOOOVE it.

  • DG

    To Stephanie: yes, Meredith (who is a friend of mine), is an actual dwarf – she is 4′ 3″ … and one hell of an actress – check out the movie ‘Unconditional Love,’ which she totally steals from Kathy Bates and Rupert Everett. There are many different forms of dwarfism; and in Meredith’s case her head and face are indeed of ‘average’ size. She is also a terrific and funny person in ‘real life’. So glad for her success – and yes, they should definately keep her around on BL!! She is also guest starring on ‘House’ later in the season. Kudos to EW for doing an article on her also!

  • matt

    my ex and i started watching the show the first season. now, we aren’t friends, we don’t talk, i couldn’t care less about him…but we always email each other about each episode of BL.

  • Chris

    I’m glad someone else ain’t digging Jeffrey Coho. I don’t think this show needs another main character. I liked the cast that closed out Season 2: Alan, Denny, Shirley, Paul, Brad and Denise. If they needed to add a character, it at least should have been female.

  • teacherdrama

    Love BL – watch it every week. Last night’s kiss will stand out as one of the most disturbing things ever shown on television – but at least it was completely earned, unlike, say, Fear Factor. Spader and Shatner are so perfect in those roles — their Emmy wins in past years came as no surprise to me! It’s interesting to see what happens with a show when the network has enough faith to keep it around, but is not making such a big deal of it that it’s subject to anything more than the creator’s whims (and given that it’s Kelly, who’s given us some GREAT TV in the past 20 odd years, thank goodness!)

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