Reviews for "Boston Legal"

Boston Legal [New]

10 pm/ET, ABC
If acceptance speeches are a guideline, the most flustered recipient at last month's Emmy Awards was James Spader. Understandably because, come on, who thought either James Gandolfini or Anthony LaPaglia wouldn't win the Outstanding Actor in a Drama prize? Anyway, Spader tried in vain to summon up the insouciant glibness of his Emmy-winning persona: The Practice's enigmatic Alan Shore. No matter. Spader now has writers to concoct his wry ripostes as he re-creates the Shore role here opposite fellow Practice Emmy winner William Shatner. — Skip Carrington (source)

On the Tube: 'Boston Legal' is a more offbeat practice
Friday, October 01, 2004

Viewers who enjoyed latter-day episodes of "The Practice" that focused on Alan Shore (James Spader) and Denny Crane (William Shatner) will be just as fond of ABC's spin-off, "Boston Legal" (10 p.m. Sunday). Actually, it's probably a little better, certainly more consistent. Writer David E. Kelley's "The Practice" was always a grittier show, and the buffoonish Denny Crane didn't fit in tonally.

"Boston Legal" has a different, lighter tone. Not as whimsical as Kelley's "Ally McBeal" but certainly goofier than the early days of the decidedly more earnest "The Practice."

But there is no mistaking "Boston Legal" for anything other than a Kelley office drama. The show and its characters have all the trademark tics that have become his calling card: Quirky cases, outrageous characters, legal arguments as sermons on the mount. Everything is just a little bit heightened, at least when it's not completely over the top; caricatures too often sub for characters.

As its own series, the Crane of "Boston Legal" has evolved into a mentor of sorts for the ethically casual Shore, who now has a nemesis in Brad Chase (Mark Valley, "Keen Eddie"), a fast-talking "Ken doll." There's just one problem with this casting: Anyone who's seen Valley in other shows knows he's not a fast talker, all-business, stuffed-shirt type. That's just not his rhythm. This alleged character trait would best be dropped sooner rather than later.

The first episode includes a custody battle and this classic Kelley case: a stage mother incensed that her African-American daughter was not picked to star in a production of "Annie."

In addition to Spader and Shatner, other holdovers from "The Practice" include Rhona Mitra as "nasty hot" Tara Wilson and Lake Bell as Sally Heep, who now has a history with Chase. Monica Potter is new to the cast of regulars as Lori Colson, a blond lawyer who seems more tentative than the other women, but beyond that, her character isn't developed much in this first episode written by Kelley and directed by Bill D'Elia.

One visual oddity: Some scenes open with nonsensical quick cuts. An office scene might show a desk chair, blotter and stapler in quick succession. A restaurant scene opens on quick shots of a cocktail and a plate of food. It's pretty pointless, a failed attempt at creativity in scene-opening establishing shots.

But "Boston Legal" does have its merits, mostly in little moments, often between Spader and Shatner, who have developed an easy rapport. It doesn't hurt that Shatner is clearly having a blast.

"Don't waste your time trying to get in my head," Denny Crane tells the blond lawyer. "There's nothing there."

To say the same of "Boston Legal" would be unfair and an exaggeration as broadly drawn as some of Kelley's characters.

By Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

'Boston Legal'

10 p.m. Sunday, Ch. 7

"Boston Legal'' began life last season in the artistic rubble of a decaying "The Practice,'' once one of TV's best courtroom dramas. It was ugly to watch, and I held out little hope for "Boston Legal,'' despite the oily charm of James Spader as ethically challenged Alan Shore and a wonderfully loopy performance by William Shatner as "law legend'' Denny Crane. But Sunday's opening episode proves to be slick, fast-paced and amusing, with newcomer Mark Valley ("Keen Eddie'') making a real impact as a nemesis for Spader's character. The show's biggest problem: an unappealing misogynistic streak, with an array of female characters who are oversexed, under-dressed and emotionally fragile. That could spoil what might be a fairly tasty TV dish. (source)

'Boston Legal' rises from ashes of 'The Practice'

By Robert P. Laurence

October 2, 2004

Television's been entertaining us for well over 50 years now, so not much happens for the first time anymore.

But David E. Kelley might have done something unprecedented with "Boston Legal."

The writer-producer took "The Practice," a legal melodrama that had grown stale and weary over six years, introduced a new cast over the course of a season, gave the show a new look and a new attitude, turned it inside out, escorted the original actors one by one out the door, and, abracadabra, pulled from his hat a brand-new series.

Not that "Boston Legal" is utterly without precedent. More than anything else in Kelley's oft-brilliant but erratic history ("Picket Fences," "Chicago Hope," "Boston Public," "Doogie Howser, M.D.," "Girls Club," "The Brotherhood of Poland, N.H."), his new series resembles "Ally McBeal."
As was "Ally," "Legal" is rated "Q" for quirky. Wacky characters abound, clients look askance at the goings-on, usually with good reason. One lawyer appears in coat, tie, shirt, and nothing else.

The lead character is not a borderline-anorexic young woman, but two determinedly eccentric men, one of middle age and the other several years beyond.

Those litigating kooks are Alan Shore, played with blithe aplomb by James Spader, and Denny Crane, played by William Shatner, reaching far more interesting depths than he ever did as the robotic Capt. Kirk.

It is Shore who inadvertently describes how far things have gone at the law firm: "Denny, I'm having an identity crisis. I've always prided myself on being, well, nuts. In this firm, I find myself falling into the 'sane' category."

Denny, meeting a man from Chicago, announces, "My kind of town! Always had the best sex of my life in Chicago!"

Mark Valley has the dull but necessary role of Brad Chase, thegorgeously handsome straight-arrow lawyer, the conscience to whom nobody listens.

The metaphorical pulling of rabbits out of hats is a dominant theme in tomorrow's premiere episode, and it may be that Kelley had his own accomplishment in mind when he scribbled the script.

Robert P. Laurence: (619) 293-1892; (source)

"Boston Legal" (ABC Channel 7; 10 tonight)

Logline: Spinoff of "The Practice" finds ethically bereft Alan Shore (Emmy winner James Spader) joining the law firm of equally eccentric Denny Crane (Emmy winner William Shatner), much to the consternation of ramrod-upright Brad Chase (Mark Valley, who charmed as the rebel bad-boy in "Keen Eddie").

Pros: Spader brings the same droll sensibility that revivified "The Practice" nicely last season, and the way in which Shatner has reinvented his career, evolving from self-important hambone to genuinely funny hambone, should be taught in acting school.

Cons: As one might reasonably expect, after writing something just short of a gazillion episodes of legal shows ("L.A. Law," "Ally McBeal" "girls club" and, naturally, "The Practice") creator David E. Kelley seems to be straining to eke out new scripts. Some of the dialogue is funny, but elsewhere it's flat and rushed, and he seems to have run out of fresh ideas for court cases: Tonight's, about a black girl wanting to star in the musical "Annie," works thanks only to the young actress' impishness.

In a nutshell: Here's hoping the writing improves (perhaps workaholic Kelley could learn the concept of delegating scripts to other writers), because the cast could take this show places. Besides around Boston, that is. (source)

Quirky `Legal' cast builds on old `Practice'
By Sarah Rodman
Sunday, October 3, 2004

Even if you weren't in the practice of watching ABC's "The Practice,'' you might find its spinoff, "Boston Legal,'' habit-forming.

With tonight's pilot, airing at 10 on WCVB (Ch. 5), creator David E. Kelley ("Ally McBeal,'' "Boston Public'') has crafted an hour that requires no knowledge of the launching-pad show but rewards those who hung in with the final season of the previous Hub-set lawyer drama.

Be warned: You're going to have to stay close to your TV during this fast-paced hour as more than a half dozen major characters are introduced and compete for airtime with as many minor ones.

Kelley, clearly jazzed to be writing new quirky characters, makes it worth the effort by giving the law offices of Crane, Poole & Schmidt a bright, fresh, funny feel that is a welcome contrast to the increasingly dour environs of Donnell, Frutt & Young.

"Practice'' holdovers include the ethically questionable Alan Shore (recent Emmy winner James Spader), the intellectually questionable Sally Heep (Lake Bell), the mentally questionable Denny Crane (William Shatner) and the unquestionably sexy British paralegal Tara Wilson (Rhona Mitra).

The lighter tone is established immediately. During a partners meeting, Crane tells a colleague from Chicago, "I always had the best sex of my life in Chicago. How about you?''

We later learn that he's having an affair with one of the firm's biggestGFreview"Boston Legal.''

Series premiere tonight at 10 on WCVB (Ch. 5).(out of four)cw-4clients, which complicates the life of junior partner Lori Colson (Monica Potter).

The idiosyncratic Shore immediately butts head with the square but sexy Brad Chase (Mark Valley of "Keen Eddie''), who is asked to delay his return to D.C. so he can babysit the Boston office in the wake of a dive into the deep end by senior partner Edwin Poole (Larry Miller).

cw0"Star Trek'' aficionados will be pleased to see Rene Auberjonois (Odo on "Deep Space Nine'') as senior partner and Crane confidant Paul Lewiston.

cw-4 The night's two cases - a bitter custody dispute and a racial-discrimination claim by a young black girl denied the lead role in a touring company of "Annie'' - handily introduce the characters and balance the serious/silly scales.

cw-1 Though there are plenty of sunny shots of the Hub, "Boston Legal'' - like Kelley's previous Boston shows "Ally McBeal'' and "Boston Public'' - won't be shot in town, and there are no detectable accents in the pilot.

I'm willing to overlook this oversight, however, and hope "Boston Legal'' is granted a continuance. (source)

TV Review: 'Boston Legal'

Thu Sep 30, 7:53 PM ET, By Barry Garron

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - David E. Kelley's work on "L.A. Law" in the 1980s transformed and redefined TV legal drama.

He helped free the form from the stiff "Perry Mason"-style formula to one that features multiple stories, intra-law-firm drama and quirky legal issues that never are quite what they seem to be.

Legal tiffs in and out of the courtroom could become heated, and petty jealousies might sprout from time to time, but "L.A. Law" and, later, "The Practice," were centered on law firms led by men of principle and ethics. Winning a case mattered a lot, but so did being able to look at yourself in the mirror at the end of the day.

That's why the character of Alan Shore, a lawyer who reveled in victory through trickery and who defied anyone to define him, seemed such an unlikely addition to "The Practice." James Spader's portrayal of Shore won him a well-deserved Emmy, and the character revitalized the series, but there was always a nagging feeling that he operated in some parallel universe.

Not anymore. Shore is completely within his element in ABC's "Boston Legal," an entire law firm dedicated to Vince Lombardi's tenet that winning isn't everything, it's the only thing. The two most senior members, Denny Crane (William Shatner) and Paul Lewiston (Rene Auberjonois (news)), lack not only a moral compass but even the rudiments of a conscience. Shore and his new rival, Brad Chase (Mark Valley), wager on the outcome of cases. Female lawyers count their sexual charms as simply another resource of the firm. This is "L.A. Law" on crack.

That isn't a cause for complaint but, rather, celebration. The wild streak of anarchy that runs through "Boston Legal" makes the glitzy law firm of Crane, Poole & Schmidt a cuckoo's nest that's fun to watch and impossible to anticipate. The civil cases still bear the Kelley imprimatur of inspired legal lunacy, but now the lawyers handling them are equally unpredictable.

The premiere of "L.A. Law" opened with the death of a senior partner, followed by another partner's claim to the vacant office of the deceased. In the "Boston Legal" opener, a senior partner also exits the firm on a gurney, this time the result of a darkly comedic nervous breakdown. No matter. Both incidents set the table for groundbreaking drama that reflects the spirit of the times. (Is it discrimination if producers reject an otherwise qualified young black actress for the title role of "Annie?" And what if her white competition is about equally qualified?)

Kelley proved last season that there's still a thirst for a smartly executed legal drama at 10 p.m. Sundays. His latest effort should keep viewers coming back for more.

Cast: Alan Shore: James Spader; Brad Chase: Mark Valley; Denny Crane: William Shatner; Tara Wilson: Rhona Mitra; Sally Heep: Lake Bell; Lori Colson: Monica Potter; Paul Lewiston: Rene Auberjonois; Edwin Poole: Larry Miller (news); Judge Sharpley: Sharon Lawrence.

Executive producers: David E. Kelley, Bill D'Elia, Jeff Rake, Scott Kaufer; Co-executive producers: Mike Listo, Peter Ocko; Supervising producers: Steve Robin, Jonathan Shapiro, Lukas Reiter; Consulting producers: Robert Breech, Kerry Ehrin; Director: Bill D'Elia; Teleplay: Scott Kaufer, Jeff Rake, David E. Kelley; Creator: David E. Kelley; Director of photography: James Bagdonas; Production designer: Janet Knutsen McCann; Editor: Craig Bench; Score: Danny Lux; Casting: Ken Miller, Nikki Valko.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter (source)

Spader keeps 'Boston Legal'

October 1, 2004

Appalling legal scoundrel or unscrupulous courtroom delight?

The twisted truth is that Alan Shore rather merrily blurs the line between appalling and delightful.

And as played with devilish sardonic wit and a scheming twinkle in his eye by James Spader on ABC's "Boston Legal," the raffishly amoral Shore is the most enjoyable thing to happen to courtroom drama in years.

Last season, Spader joined "The Practice" for that show's farewell tour, a very shrewd move by series creator David E. Kelley.

All of a sudden, what had devolved into an overwrought courtroom melodrama was fun again.

The show's sudden creative resurgence earned Spader critical raves and a surprise Emmy for his lead performance. Now comes the more difficult task for Kelley and Spader. That's staying in the same refreshingly humorous groove with "Boston Legal," the promising spin-off that premieres at 10 Sunday night on ABC.

The glumly self-righteous legal crusaders from "The Practice" are gone.

And we're swept from the gritty world of criminal defense attorneys to the glossy surroundings of a hotshot firm of Boston civil litigators. It's a top-shelf corporate operation run by William Shatner's cockeyed loon Denny Crane, who first arrived on the scene in the final weeks of "The Practice."

"Don't waste your time trying to get in my head. There's nothing there," the screwloose Crane informs a colleague in the opening episode of "Boston Legal."

Yes, anyone familiar with the wacko courtroom universe of Kelley's "Ally McBeal" may well sense some echoes of that surreal eye candy in "Boston Legal." But there's a darker, more emotionally complex edge to Alan Shore. He's no shallow nitwit even if Shatner's wigged-out Denny Crane is encouraged to get in touch with his inner legal clown.

The show's attractive and well-matched supporting cast includes late-period "Practice" sex bombs Tara Wilson (Rhona Mitra) and Sally Heep (Lake Bell), as well as new legal eagles Lori Colson (Monica Potter) and Brad Chase (Mark Valley, "Keen Eddie").

In the centerpiece case of the series premiere, Alan Shore represents an unhappy African-American stage mother who thinks racial discrimination prevented her daughter from winning the lead role in a national road company of "Annie." Oh my.

"I'm afraid there's been a terrible mistake. I don't do musical comedy," Shore tartly informs the mother upon their first meeting.

Not to worry. Shore's sly courtroom wizardry will soon work its conniving magic.

And along the way, so does the entertaining "Boston Legal."

Contact MIKE DUFFY at 313-222-6520 or
Copyright © 2004 Detroit Free Press Inc.

'Boston Legal,' signature Kelley

Fri Oct 1, 6:39 AM ET

By Robert Bianco, USA TODAY

Every David E. Kelley show has one important star you never see: David E. Kelley.

That's not to diminish the contributions of his visible stars - in this case, newly minted Emmy winners James Spader and William Shatner, repeating their Practice roles of Alan Shore and Denny Crane. But what ultimately distinguishes Kelley's series - from hits such as Ally McBeal, Picket Fences and The Practice to flops such as Snoops, Girls Club and The Brotherhood of Poland New Hampshire - is the singular, extravagantly inventive voice of their creator.

Though fan sentiment is split, I tend to prefer that voice when it's more restrained and muted, as it was in the first few years of The Practice. That's why I had no particular use for the Shore and Crane duo when they were shoehorned into The Practice, pushing aside old favorites and depriving them and their show of a fitting finale.

Still, whatever one thought of Practice last season, Boston Legal is a separate show - and it should be viewed with a clean slate. Taken on its own purposely outrageous terms, Boston succeeds as a decent legal comedy led by two broadly amusing characters. Their act isn't for everyone, but there's no denying Spader and Shatner are well-matched scene-stealers.

Sunday's premiere reintroduces us to the flamboyant lead lawyers while adding to the mix brisk-talking Brad Chase (Mark Valley of the late and lamented Keen Eddie). Brad is horrified by the team's behavior, not to mention another partner's appearance without pants at a morning meeting. ("Demagnetize his parking pass," says an unsympathetic Denny.)

Brad's job is to rein in the uncontrolled Denny, which brings him into instant conflict with Alan. It doesn't help, of course, that Alan and Brad have both had romantic relations with Sally (Lake Bell).

Like Ally, the cases range from serious to frivolous, and it's not always clear at first glance which is which. Alan, for example, gets pressed into representing an African-American girl who is suing because she was not cast as the lead in Annie. Silly as the case starts out to be, the issues involved get a more sensible airing than you might imagine.

Sexual politics usually play a part in Kelley's dramas, and Boston is no exception. You have a partner who is sleeping with the wife of a client, which somehow leads to Lori (Monica Potter) recruiting Tara (Rhona Mitra) to flirt with the client - something she'd be good at because she's "nasty hot." There's also a custody case that is resolved by, you guessed it, sex.

As with all Kelley shows, Boston is likely to provoke strong and opposite reactions, sometimes from scene to scene. The show undoubtedly goes too far, but that's Kelley's signature style. (source)

New York Daily News -
'Legal' has instant appeal

Friday, October 1st, 2004

BOSTON LEGAL. Sunday night at 10, ABC.
The new David E. Kelley ABC series "Boston Legal" isn't really the continuation of "The Practice," even though several of its final-season players are showcased. It's more like the reincarnation of "Ally McBeal."

ABC could almost promote it that way: "'Ally McBeal' is back - and back on track!"

The track in question, of course, is a treacherous tightrope: Cartoonish broad comedy mixed with likable, if not always credible, characters.

In that regard, "Boston Legal" begins with a distinct advantage: Both James Spader, as unscrupulous lawyer Alan Shore, and William Shatner, as legal icon Denny Crane, won Emmys for their work on "The Practice" last year.

Add to that such returning players as Rhona Mitra (Tara Wilson) - whose scenes with Spader last year were some of the season's most tantalizing and playful - and Lake Bell (Sally Heep), and you've got a great start.

Finish with attention-getting new regulars, including Monica Potter (from the film "Head Over Heels") as Lori Colson and Mark Valley (from "Keen Eddie") as Brad Chase, and you've got the makings of a world-class TV company.

Sunday's premiere (at 10), written by Kelley and directed by Bill D'Elia, sets all these characters in motion, and conflict, in a very entertaining fashion.

Alan and Brad compete from the start. Tara and Lori compare their respective hotness factors in the middle. And Denny stares down the barrel of a gun in the climax.

In between, there are cases about child custody, divorce and racial discrimination - all three of which are solved in ways that are marginally - if at all - ethical. The resolutions are surprising, and there are surprise guest appearances, as well, including one by Sharon Lawrence as a judge.

It's all charming, with the crackle of Kelley at his best.

What I'd love to see is these "Boston Legal" heroes face off in court, from time to time, against familiar "Ally" faces of old:

- Calista Flockhart's Ally vs. Spader's Alan.
- Peter McNichol's John Cage vs. Shatner's Denny Crane.
- Lucy Liu's Ling vs. Mitra's Tara.

After all, both firms are in Boston, so why not? How many times has a legal show driven us to root for both sides?

What to root for most, though, is for Kelley to stay involved with "Boston Legal." If he steps away too far and too early, and the show loses its crackle and spark, Kelley's absence will be far too noticeable - and regrettable.

'Practice' makes almost perfect with 'Boston Legal'

October 1, 2004

When attorney Alan Shore (James Spader) worries whether he can win a discrimination suit filed by the mother of a terrifically talented black girl who didn't get the lead in a national touring production of "Annie," the senior partner in his firm, Denny Crane (William Shatner), advises him that great lawyers pull rabbits out of hats.

So do great TV writer-producers. Shore and Crane are characters in what's left of "The Practice," the David E. Kelley creation that earned top-10 ratings and major Emmys with its brisk advocacy of defense attorneys' vital role in the legal process and its oddball cases - until they got, well, too oddball.

Last season, to keep ABC from canceling "The Practice," Kelley jettisoned half the expensive original cast and brought in Spader ("sex, lies and videotape," "Secretary") to play Shore, a cavalierly underhanded courtroom whiz, and fog up the show's air of sanctimony. It worked. Spader's unflappable, ethically challenged Shore, who gives people the impression he's toying with them even when he isn't, added mischief, danger and unpredictability to a waning show. For his efforts, Spader got an Emmy a couple of weeks ago.

Still, the spin-off, which carries over Rhona Mitra and Lake Bell along with Spader, seemed to me a poor bet. If the new series wasn't doomed to be warmed-over "Practice," it was doomed to be warmed-over "Ally McBeal," another Kelley show that overdid itself.

I stand corrected. Sunday's "Boston Legal" debut is very nearly irresistible - and the perfect complement to "Desperate Housewives," the darkly comic new ABC soap that precedes it Sunday night. It is a little on the McBealy side - eccentric cases are commonplace - but at least there are no animated dancing babies or coffee-cup hot tubs.

Shore is now a civil litigator for an upscale Boston firm founded by Crane, a lawyer who is either crazy like a fox or just plain crazy. He keeps everybody guessing, even himself. "Don't waste your time trying to get inside my head," he tells one of his firm's hot young lawyers. "There's nothing there."

Shatner has never been funnier - on purpose or inadvertently. And Spader continues to amaze with his portrayal of Shore, who seems to give everyone he meets vertigo. In the opening scene Sunday, an attorney named Brad Chase (Mark "Keen Eddie" Valley), recently recalled from the firm's Washington, D.C., office, finds Shore in the seat at a meeting where he'd already placed his briefcase. When he brings this to Shore's attention, Shore pleasantly explains that he moved Chase's stuff to "a less desirable location," all but paralyzing him with illogic.

They're going to be great foils, the mind-game-playing Shore and the straight arrow to whom he addresses non sequiturs like, "Love your Aqua Velva commercials."

As noted, Shore in the opener represents a black kid who was turned down for the role of Orphan Annie. The rabbit he - or, rather, writer Kelley - pulls out is a surprise cameo by a notorious New York headline grabber who may yet have a career in acting.

Chase has the hour's more down-to-earth case - a newly licensed doctor who may have to give up a job in New York because her vindictive ex-husband is suing to keep her from moving two kids he scarcely sees.

Crane, meanwhile, finds himself in an ethical dilemma involving the wife of one of the firm's most lucrative clients. There's a pathos to Shatner's loose-cannon character that, like the humanism that lurks beneath the series' cynical veneer, Kelley never lets get out of hand.

And that's why "Boston Legal" is the best not-quite-new series of the season.

BOSTON LEGAL. A conscience, well disguised but undeniable, is just about all that's left of "The Practice" in its charming spin-off about a big civil-law firm. Premieres Sunday night at 10 on ABC/7.

Copyright © 2004, Newsday, Inc.

Networks give high concept, edgy shows another chance

When co-stars James Spader and William Shatner both won Emmys for their stints on The Practice, it assured the spin-off Boston Legal of a sizable audience for its debut Sunday at 9 p.m. on WKRN Ch. 2. Writer/producer David E. Kelley has promised that this version will be far less dark and serious than the The Practice and more like Ally McBeal with some elements of L.A. Law. Recent cast additions include Monica Potter, Mark Valley and Lake Bell.

By Ron Wynn,
September 29, 2004, source

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