'Boston Legal' Goes Down The Tube :-(

Lindsay Perigo's picture
Submitted by Lindsay Perigo on Wed, 2006-08-30 07:32

I never thought I'd switch off Boston Legal, let alone the two-hour season finale. For sparkling dialogue, KASS courtroom speeches and a willingness to eschew PC, BL has long been among my fave TV shows. But I did note with alarm its ongoing sell-out to fashionable nihilism & pomo-wanking—headbanging caterwauling segueing from one scene to the next, seasickness-inducing hand-held camera-work, etc.. For the sake of lines like "The distinguishing attribute of human beings is their ability to reason" (from just last week: Alan to Denny) I was prepared to put up with it. Last night it was just too much. TV by esthetic savages with Attention Deficit Disorder for esthetic savages with Attention Deficit Disorder. It was disgusting, & I turned it off.

My question for Americans—how did this happen? By accident, the other day I caught an episode of what I assume is BL's precursor, The Practice. It was wonderful. No headbanging, no epileptic, dog's breakfast camera-work. What happened? And—what's left? At the moment my #1 fave is '24.' Does that get pomowankered too?


( categories: )

Heh, Douglas Wambaugh WAS a

JoeM's picture

Heh, Douglas Wambaugh WAS a WTF moment in himself! Though the interaction between him and Ray Walston made the show.

Picket Fences

Landon Erp's picture

Yeah I remember how every episode began with a "What the Fuck" moment (which was later followed up by a "What the Fuck" Douglas Wambaugh for the Defense) but by the end the whole scenario made total sense.

I think once he got to the point where he couldn't make sense of it anymore it was over.


Inking is sexy.


"That doesn't mean Boston

JoeM's picture

"That doesn't mean Boston Legal is a waste of time, it just means Kelley can't do much more with it, stylistically, that is. His breaking of the fourth wall is a hat tip and an admission of that."

Seems like that happens with a lot of his shows. He jumps the shark too easily. My favorite example was the show PICKET FENCES, which started out great, and the next thing you know, a cow is giving birth to a human child, or something....

I've just watched the season finale...

Ross Elliot's picture

I've just watched the season finale of BL and can't see that's its camera work, etc. is any more annoying than in the previous episodes. I certainly enjoyed it for its *content*, and will be watching next season.

But, for all those with an interest in screenwriting, the most stunning thing happened at the end of the show. David Kelley intentionally broke the fourth wall. Not through a wink and a nod to camera, but through dialogue.

Denny bumps into Shirley. He asks her for a kiss. Quite professionally, she demures. He says: "C'mon, you know this is the sweeps episode."


"Sweeps" refers to the periods during which TV ratings assume their upmost importance. Shows often explore controversial subjects or end in cliffhangers to capture a sizeable audience, upon which advertising revenue can be calculated.

Then, right at the end, as Alan and Denny are on the balcony for their nightly scotch & cigars, Alan says to Denny: "Well, there's always next season." To which Denny replies: "Same night, I hope."


This is all slipped in matter of factly, and while only a small percentage of viewers would have twigged to the exact meaning of their comments, writer Kelley has taken an enormous dramatic liberty in a show that otherwise doesn't indulge in such things.

It seems to me that Kelley is admitting something here. That the show, with it's quirky situational drama, etc. is really at its limit. That the envelope can't be pushed much further without bringing the whole house of cards down upon itself. That doesn't mean Boston Legal is a waste of time, it just means Kelley can't do much more with it, stylistically, that is. His breaking of the fourth wall is a hat tip and an admission of that.

That's why I said his best work is to come. He can't pursue this line of attack for much longer. And, he won't.


Marcus's picture

I have never watched this show, but last week I saw an interview with playwright "Howard Brenton" on the BBC evening news. He started off by saying, "I am a Libertarian and I dislike all forms of state censorship." They mentioned that he has written several episodes of the TV show "Spooks", with one being considered highly controversial due to his depiction of Muslim terrorists. Asked about the state wanting to be more "multi-culti" in order to stem terrorism, he said that the state should not be funding so-called "faith schools" or of course "schools" in general.

So, thanks for the tip Diana and Peter, I will try to watch it next time it is on.


Phil Howison's picture

Like Jeff says - "TV is a waste of time" in my opinion. I prefer the freedom of using DVDs or the Internet.

However I absolutely love Prison Break, and I don't mind House. I don't watch anything else Smiling

Second Peter's Recommendation

DianaHsieh's picture

Let me second Peter Creswell's recommendation of Spooks -- or MI-5 as it's called in the States. Although a few episodes fell a bit flat, both Paul and I have enjoyed it immensely. (Oh, how I loved Chloe!)

I'm glad to hear of so many recommendations of Rome. Paul and I were wondering about that... but now we'll definitely watch it. (We'll rent it from Netflix. A TV episode is just the perfect length for a good workout!)

Right now, Paul and I are watching the first season of Veronica Mars. We're both enjoying that as well, although I'm stopped in an absolutely horrid place -- I just finished Disc 5 -- that's killing me. (Please, no spoilers!)

-- Diana Hsieh


James S. Valliant's picture

If you're like me, ROME is completely addictive.

Rome is good. Two hour

Ross Elliot's picture

Rome is good. Two hour finale this Sunday.

A co-production between HBO, BBC and RAI (Italy), it was shot in Italy and uses the old Kurosawa techinique of telling a story, wholly, or partly, through the eyes of minor characters. In Rome's case, the legionaries Lucius and Titus. Lucas did it in Star Wars with C3PO and R2D2, and even Rand, via Eddie Willers, gave it a go.

Being a fan of the modern HBO series', both mini and seasonal, I have to wonder if this is the future for good drama; a nexus, if you like, between the production values and budget of film (which is now being woefully squandered) and the ability of television to capture an audience week after week in a subscription-orientated environment. With the advent of high definition signals, widescreens and great sound, the movie house is losing its edge.

After the first episode of

Ross Elliot's picture

After the first episode of Boston Legal aired in NZ, I posted here that I found it somewhat distasteful, specifically because of the plotline of that first episode. I was expecting a show with the slick delivery of LA Law and the spunk of The Practice. Didn't seem like it was going to happen.

But, I quickly changed my mind. BL proved to be worthy from both a dramatic and ethically challenging perspective. By ethically challenging I don't mean that it has always presented the ideal position, but that it at least engaged in a debate.

Recently, though, it's The Practice that has gained my adoration. For those not in the know, BL is a spin-off of TP, in as much as it features Alan Shore (James Spader) in both shows, and the final season of TP involved Alan Shore retaining Denny Crane (William Shatner) from Boston's top law firm, Crane, Poole & Schmidt, to take on his previous employer in a partnership dispute. In NZ, in an unfortunate quirk of the syndication process, the final season of TP is playing at the *same time* as the first season of BL, and on different channels one night apart. In fact, BL has finished with TP still having a month to run!

I agree with Lindsay that a lot of modern cinematography leaves a lot to be desired. The constant movement, racking of focus, jump-cutting, etc. often detracts from the drama when, obviously, these techniques are meant to enhance it. Once upon a time the camera didn't move, and movies were shot as if they were the stage plays of old. And while there's nothing wrong with the nice fluid use of the steadicam to create a sense of intimacy and movement, the current overuse of the technique is just plain silly. And, it ain't new. The first use of it that I remember was from the early 80s in the wonderful Hill Street Blues. It became temporarily overused in NYPD Blue, until they settled it down somewhat. Third Watch employed it to perfect effect. That said, and the above being all American shows, I watched a segment of a British "drama" the other evening, and the camera work was *unwatchable*. The racking alone made me ill.

James Spader was born to play the role of Alan Shore, and anyone who saw his performace in Secretary, will know what I mean. He's superb. Shatner's pretty good as well, but, hell, stick a phaser in his hand and he really could still be on the bridge of the Enterprise. But, that's Bill.

The real star of both shows is their creator and writer, David Kelley. He's perhaps the best writer alive today, in both television and movies. He constantly surprises with his ingenuity, change of pace, plotting and dialogue. He never telegraphs a climax and doesn't insult the viewer's intelligence. Having been a lawyer he knows his subject, and his speeches show it. Today, the best writing is on television and Kelley is one of the reasons why, and his best work is to come.

That said, I haven't seen the season finale that showed in NZ a couple of days ago. I have, however, recorded it Smiling

The second season of Boston Legal has already run in the US with slightly lower ratings. If NZ programmers had any sense they'd simply keep the thing going. They haven't, and they won't. Until then we'll have to make do with the last few episodes of The Practice and the insanely addictive, 24.


Peter Cresswell's picture

"Oh, & is the actor playing House's roommate the guy from Dead Poets Society?"


Cheers, Peter Cresswell

**Setting Brushfires In People's Minds**

**Integrating Architecture With Your Site**

The only TV we watch is

Olivia's picture

The only TV we watch is Dragon's Den - which is on tonight - the NZ version. Should be a hoot with Bob Jones as one of them.

If there are shows we like we buy the complete set and watch them at our leisure, like Boston Legal, the Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Cracker... remember Smiley's People? Fantastic.


Lindsay Perigo's picture

'House" was great. I didn't catch every episode, but when I did see it, for some reason it always reminded me of Fred Weiss! Smiling

Something else I'm enjoying at the moment—'Prison Break.' The lead actor (sorry, I'm hopeless with actors' names) would make a great Galt or Roark.

'Rome' on Sunday nights is superb too.

Oh, & is the actor playing House's roommate the guy from Dead Poets Society?

Speaking of Monty Python...

JoeM's picture

I saw SPAMALOT last night on Broadway. Highly recommended.

Some of the best stuff I've seen...

Daniel Walden's picture

...comes from the glory days of BBC programming. Monty Python's Flying Circus is always a favorite of mine, as is Fawlty Towers, which starred John Cleese as an irritable and hilariously irrational hotel manager. One pair of absolute gems that's quite often overlooked by people outside of Great Britain is the two-series set of Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister. Never have the machinations of bureaucracy been so thoroughly and comically skewered as they were on those two shows. The shows center around Jim Hacker, a minister (and later PM) in the British government, and his Permanent Secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby, a Civil Servant. The premise is simple: Jim wants to make changes for the betterment of Britain, and Humphrey's sole goal is to stop Jim from making any changes whatsoever. I kid you not, there were times when I damn near fell out of my chair watching it. Reportedly it was Margaret Thatcher's favorite show, since it portrayed and satirized a government whose regular functioning was the exact opposite of hers.


Landon Erp's picture

I've been kind of surprised to notice that anymore I see a lot higher quality from television lately than in film.

I honestly can't remember the last time I saw a good comedy in theaters... sadly yes I can and it's been that long since "Team America" came out. But there are at least half a dozen good sitcoms on right now (as compared to the late 90's when I was glad to spend my nights working in order to avoid such crap).

While I've grown a little tired of CSI and the like (or as I call it CGI) I still enjoy an occaisional episode of Law and Order, which I love because it's sometimes the only thing on TV that feels like a great "crime" show in the classic sense of the word.

As far as detective drama's go I do enjoy the quirky Monk, but my new personal favorite has to be Psyche. If you haven't seen this show I reccomend you check it out, I think it's in many ways referential to shows like "Medium" in that the lead character is a con man (though one with exceptional observation skills) who works as a psychic detective (the show's hilarious).

As to BL itself I've had moments of enjoyment from it but I tend to notice that David Kelly (no relation... I think anyway) and his lawyer shows especially but just his shows in general tend to have expiration dates (Ally McBeal, Picket Fences etc). From the specific complaints I get the impression it's trying to be "hip" to gain a younger audience... it's probably got one-three seasons left in it.


Inking is sexy.



jtgagnon's picture

I trashed my TV some time ago. That said, every now and then I'll venture over to a friend's house to watch BL or House (or the news). That pretty much sums up my television viewing.

What's left?

Peter Cresswell's picture

What's left? I enjoyed both series of 'House' -- it takes a while however not to see Hugh Laurie as Percy from 'Black Adder'!

And British spy drama 'Spooks' was also superb. We saw both only briefly on TV, and then got hooked on them on DVD.

I don't think either programme is currently on in NZ, but they are on DVD. Smiling

Cheers, Peter Cresswell

**Setting Brushfires In People's Minds**

**Integrating Architecture With Your Site**

'Boston Legal'?

Tim S's picture

Never heard of it either. Still, at least we have CSI.

I didn't even know...

Marcus's picture

...a program by that name existed.

There is very little US television shown on UK terrestrial TV, and what little there is I can not stomach. I must live a sheltered cultural existence here in old blighty Smiling

I caught the final of BL

Duncan Bayne's picture

I caught the final of BL too, & noticed the prevalence of hand-held camera work. Didn't detract from the show for me though. BL is actually one of the very few things on TV I watch - that, Dr. Who, 24 and Top Gear are the only shows I watch with anything approximating regularity.

Marnee, why was Serenity

Melissa Lepley's picture

Marnee, why was Serenity horrible? I really enjoyed it. I had never heard of Firefly when I first saw previews for the movie, but I knew I wanted to go see it as soon as I could. After watching Serenity in theaters, I rented the first (ha ha) season of Firefly and fell in love.

I'm not sure how I would have felt about the movie had I seen the TV show first... Might that be the difference?

I know the sincere disappointment of seeing a movie made from a much-loved book that doesn't live up to expectations, is that the problem?


Minear is...

Daniel Walden's picture

...good, but he's not half the artist that Whedon is. Buffy is the show I'm most familiar with, since it's the only one I own in its entirity, and I can say that the best episodes were written and directed by Whedon, including the incomparable two-part finale to season 2 and the heart-wrenching "The Body" in season 5. Whedon's gift is that even while he's enchanting us with wonderful fantasy/sci-fi settings, he also never loses sight of the humanity of his characters. They're real people that you come to care about, especially his main characters like Buffy, Angel and Willow. Sure, there are times when Whedon's stuff doesn't square exactly with Objectivism, but it doesn't have to in order to be great art and great entertainment. What's important is that his overall themes resonate with you and that he conveys them well. For instance, throughout all seven seasons of Buffy (even the awful last one), the overarching theme is "You can't be other than what you are." Buffy kills vampires and demons because she's the Slayer, and in doing so she also protects those who are important to her. I think we can all agree that that message (that in acknowledging reality and working with it, you acquire and maintain values) is one that needs to be heard, especially in this day.

Tim Minear

Marnee's picture

I think the true genius behind Firefly, Buffy, and Angel was Tim Minear. Check it. The episodes that he wrote and directed display the least philosophical confusion and the most rational selfishness -- see Firefly episode Out of Gas. Note also that the very sadly horrible (!!!) Serenity did not have Tim Minear on the team.

Im just sayin.

Joss Whedon! :D

Melissa Lepley's picture

I love that guy! He is hands-down, my favorite writer on television. The creator of Buffy, Angel, and Firefly? What a beautiful mind!

I already own Firefly and Serenity, and I look forward to buying Buffy, when I have the cash to do so.

I have found myself eschewing television, as such, for DVD's. I joined Netflix some time ago, and it has proved invaluable. No commercials, no news breaks, no political campaigns...just what I want to see, when I want to see it. I've never been a huge TV watcher, I've always prefered books, but there are a few shows worth watching. I'm just glad I can watch them on my own terms! Laughing out loud


Know exactly what you mean, JD.

Daniel Walden's picture

I would be a prime example of the American teenager who doesn't watch television. Unless it's HBO, which tends to be a hell of a lot better than most of the crap on the air (amazing what kind of programming people will produce if you're paying them to do it!). If I watch anything at all, it'll be some of the better anime from Japan or (more likely) DVDs I bought of some show that bears the worthy-of-veneration print of writer Joss Whedon.


Melissa Lepley's picture

I haven't been watching Boston Legal this season, because my television decided not to get that channel anymore. The thing is older than me, and is on it's last legs. I'm lucky it shows color.

I am much dismayed to hear that Boston Legal has "gone down the tube"!

I started watching The Practice when Alan Shore joined (only the last season or so), simply because I adore James Spader, and got hooked on the show. I was thrilled to see a spin-off with him and William Shattner!

I don't know what it is about Alan Shore, I don't even like him all the time, but he is one of the two sexiest characters on television right now. (The other is, of course, Dr. House)

I rented the entire first season as soon as it came out on DVD and watched it in a single weekend. I am planning to do the same with the second season, as soon as it comes out. I think I'll have to see it for myself, before I'm willing to give up on one of my favorite shows!



Jeff Perren's picture

TV could be considered a modern Horror File on the basis of the camera work alone.

Fortunately for the future of the world, teens are increasingly turning off. The common sentiment? "TV is a waste of time!"

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