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Boston Legal


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Boston Legal has edged out House, M.D as my fav all-time TV series. A spinoff from The Practice (1997-2004), which had become uber-expensive to produce because of the size of its cast, this American legal drama-comedy was televised during 2004-2008.
I watched the DVD version of the entire 101 episodes this month and it was a great way to appreciate the oddball storylines, heart-felt humour, and acting excellence. While there was a rotating cast from one season to the next, only the two principal stars (James Spader as Alan Shore and William Shatner as Denny Crane) appeared in every episode.
One day, a budding psychologist might write a thesis claiming that the entire staff at Crane, Poole & Schmidt really were crazy. But, on that note:

Clarence (to Carl Sack): I'm not sure why you came here. Maybe it was to remake this law firm into something...
Sack: Resembling a law firm?
Clarence: I understand the decision to project conservatism... and reasonableness and modesty... but Boston is full of those firms. As is New York and - well, I guess every city. The people I went to law school with work at many of them. They all have one thing in common. They're not happy. People here are. Maybe because they're not afraid of themselves. One lawyer likes to purr and hop. Partners and associates have sex with each other sometimes. We've got two men who take five minutes out of every single day... to celebrate their friendship on a balcony. How many people do you know who actually do that? I occasionally throw on a dress and I like to sing. I don't want to be one of those lawyers at other firms... choking on modesty and reasonableness. I'm surprised that you do. If your mission here is to make this... into a normal law firm... I really hope you fail... for everybody's sake.

Both Shore and Crane are highly-skilled, iconic, lecherous litigation attorneys. They are driven by different imperatives but are nevertheless best buddies. During the last five minutes of each episode, on the balcony at evening, with scotch and cigar, they philosophise about the day's events and about themselves.

Alan: I didn't see you out on the balcony last night.
Denny: Bev and I had something to do. Then we did it again.

Alan's moral compass sends him in to bat for the little guy, "tilting at windmills" as he takes on big tobacco, the pharmaceutical industry, the U.S. Supreme Court, and other heavyweights (sueing God included) in Don Quixote fashion; his challenges to the law on/with emotion, logic and technicalities accounts for many of the whacky cases. The fervour of his eloquent closing statements reveals his principled and noble motives, and the courtroom is his circus.

Alan: I need a new woman to objectify.

Denny is undefeated at trial ("Denny Crane" is the self-evident reply he gives to any pressing questions, as if that says it all) and is mostly concerned about preserving this legal legacy and sexual prowess. A seventy-something wrestling with the early stage of Alzheimer's Disease ("mad cow"), he gets his figures of speech confused ("beyond the bucket" instead of the "pale") and will mate with any woman who has a pulse (his cellphone's "Oh, baby. Oh! That feels so good. Don't stop. Oh!" ringtone has been known to buzz in the middle of a trial). While he has semi-retired, he does fight some cases and often acts as Alan's second chair.

Denny: "I'm gonna say this one more time with all the humiIity I can summon up. l'm the greatest trial attorney who ever lived."

Candice Bergen plays name-partner Shirley Schmidt, a sixty-something desired by the headline attorneys and often the Ms. Fixit when Denny goes into loose-canon mode.

The supporting cast includes Catherine Piper as a bored octogenarian, sometime assistant to Alan, and serial defendant who murders, holds-up convenience stores, and sues the TV industry because of inadequate programming for seniors.

The attorneys:
- Jerry Espenson is afflicted with Asperger's syndrome and uses various props to cope at work and trial;
- Bethany ("The Badger") is a dwarf who is one target of Denny's lust;
- Clarence Bell, a cross-dresser;
- Lorraine manages brothels in several cities on the side;
and other strolling players from the theatre of the absurd. And you won't believe the rack on Katie; when I'm old and they put me out to stud, I wouldn't mind sharing the corral with a filly like her.

Judge Clark Brown is a gnome-like, seventy-something, gay, possible virgin, who lives with his mum and is played by Henry Gibson: great casting for this beautiful man, R.I.P.

If you put all these (and many more) characters into one studio, add scripts principally from David E. Kelley, and mix well, you get a great ensemble that delivered what was - for me, at least - a perfect show: a great balance between legal issues and human interest, blended with social, economic and political commentary.

One signature feature of the series was how it frequently broke through the fourth wall. This happens when the characters seem to be aware that they are merely players and are being observed by an audience.
I'll finish this roundup with some examples (yes, I tracked down, and sometimes synched, subtitles for your benefit). The last pair, from the final episode, is their regret at the cancellation of the series and hopes for a revival. If you ever watch the series yourself, you might care to add some other fourth-wall screenshots yourself.

Alan helps his mate, Denny:

Memories of Star Trek... not life as we know it:


Some more:
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