I hate writing this review. I’m doing it because the last episode of Boston Legal has aired and it is time to close the book on a show that I love, one that should have lasted longer but didn’t because the audiences weren’t big enough and ABC weren’t willing to support it anymore. The creator, David E. Kelley, had bitter feelings in the end, recognizing the fact that even though some of his earlier shows were bigger hits none of them was as loved by a core audience as Boston Legal. This was after all his opportunity to delve deeper into a subject he has approached before but never as thoroughly – male bonding.
The show started out as a spin-off to The Practice, but promised to be different. Boston Legal had a significantly lighter tone and was closer to another Kelley show, Ally McBeal. Alan Shore (James Spader), the opinionated, passionate, exceptionally skilled but also somewhat unconscionable attorney introduced in the final season of The Practice, joined the prestigious Boston law firm of Crane, Poole & Schmidt, much to the delight of his new friend, veteran partner Denny Crane (William Shatner). The attorneys usually handled civil law cases that tended to be of a freakish or very challenging nature, something Alan cherished. Over the years, it became clear that Crane, Poole & Schmidt was the most open and inclusive law firm in town. At one point, one of the lawyers was a cross-dresser (Gary Anthony Williams) and another (Christian Clemenson) had Asperger’s and kept making strange noises at inappropriate moments.
And then there were Alan and Denny whose friendship grew so strong that they started having sleepovers at each other’s places. There was certainly no sexual attraction between them, but their relationship was much talked about.
A decidedly postmodern show
The court cases were seldom compelling; the show occasionally turned too sexist or ridiculous in some of its attempts to amuse or shock audiences. However, the showrunners made a habit of being as contemporary as possible, addressing current issues such as the 2008 presidential election. Boston Legal’s obvious liberal bias was on full display, symbolized by Alan’s brilliant, emotional closing arguments, mesmerizingly delivered by Spader. He was matched by Denny, the Republican, sexist giant of the law firm who was most likely going senile. His friendship with Alan (most episodes ended with them sitting on his balcony having a cigar, whiskey and a conversation related to the theme of the episode) was touching and even inspiring; together they opened a whole new chapter in the saga of male friendship. They were blatantly heterosexual but their love for each other and the moments they shared were no different from that of a married couple… and in the end they decided that the only people they wanted to marry were each other.
Spader and Shatner were terrific together and Candice Bergen was a very attractive addition as Shirley Schmidt, a senior partner who joined the show later in the first season and became an object of desire for both Alan and Denny. It should also be noted that the show was decidedly postmodern. There were constant, hilarious reminders of the fact that we were watching TV, not reality; at one point, Denny even cued the main-title sequence.
So, at the end of this review I guess it would be appropriate to move furniture out on the balcony and have a cigar and a shot of whiskey. I felt sad watching the series finale because I’ll miss Alan and Denny’s camaraderie. Without genuine friendship, our lives are empty.
Boston Legal 2004-2008:U.S. Made for TV. 101 episodes. Color. Created by David E. Kelley. Theme: Danny Lux. Cast: James Spader (Alan Shore), William Shatner (Denny Crane), Candice Bergen (Shirley Schmidt, 05-08), John Larroquette (07-08), Christian Clemenson (05-08), René Auberjonois (04-07), Mark Valley (04-07), Julie Bowen (05-07), Gary Anthony Williams (06-08), Monica Potter (04-05), Rhona Mitra (04-05), Lake Bell (04-05), Craig Bierko (06-07), Constance Zimmer (06-07), Tara Summers (07-08), Taraji P. Henson (07-08).
Emmys: Outstanding Actor (Spader) 04-05, 06-07; Supporting Actor (Shatner) 04-05; Guest Actor (Christian Clemenson) 05-06. Golden Globe: Best Supporting Actor (Shatner) 05.
Quote: “I’ve often found that it’s the chubby girls who offend most easily.” (Shatner)
Last word: “I really did have a stronger point of view, and the characters adopted that view more times than not. And there was a reason for that. ‘Boston Legal’ existed in a time in our country where it was suddenly considered unpatriotic to dissent or to debate. And I certainly took issue with that. That series was a bit of a town crier. Most of the other series, if you look back, most people would not know where I fall on the issues.” (Kelley, Vulture)