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December 9, 2008 |

By Dustin Rowles | Industry | December 9, 2008 |

After four-and-a-half quietly strong seasons, David E. Kelley’s remarkable “Boston Legal” quietly passed away last night. We rarely mentioned “Boston Legal” around these parts, and though I contemplated it several times, I never mustered up the effort to write the review that “Boston Legal” deserved, knowing as I did that it would be received largely with indifference here.

But “Boston Legal” was the best show of David Kelley’s long hit-and-miss career, and I say that as someone who actually loved most of his earlier shows (“The Practice,” “Ally McBeal” and “Picket Fences,” in particular, or at least the first few seasons of each, before they lost focus on the cases and devolved into soapy melodramas). “Boston Legal” on its face was no different than most legal shows. It had no gimmick. No high-concept premise. No one had telepathic powers, and there were (thankfully) no dancing babies. It was just a solid legal show that relied on the fundamentals: Compelling cases, sharp writing, and strong characters.

The strongest of those two characters were the Alan Shore and Denny Crane, played with Emmy-winning impeccability by James Spader and William Shatner in what I personally believe were the best characters of their respective careers. James Spader played a smug, misogynistic, sex-hungry, idiosyncratic, pinko-liberal attorney and Shatner was his gun-toting, Mad-Cow ridden, Alzheimer’s inflicted best friend and foil, and I’m not sure network television has ever featured a friendship as warm and homoerotic and caring as theirs was. They creeped my shit out more than a few times, but their end-of-show, get-off-my-lawn chats never failed to bring home a bit of poignancy. Kelley used those two as mouthpieces to vent about the legal system, the Bush Administration, the rising technocracy, and the state of network television. I’m actually pleasantly surprised with how much of “Boston Legal’s” content ABC allowed them to get away with — they probably assumed no one was watching. Props go to the network for allowing it to run as long as it has, despite mediocre ratings, and allowing Kelley to go out on his own terms with a two-hour finale.

Over the five years, there was also a rotating series of regulars, some of them more or less annoying than the others, though I found that this final season finally found the exact right, minimal balance with Candace Bergen, John Laroquette, Christian Clemson, and Tara Summers, who were each incredible in their roles, as was Julie Bowen in her stint, and Michael J. Fox in an Emmy-winning guest starring role.

But this is not a review of “Boston Legal.” It’s too late for that. And I very much doubt I could convince the unwilling to watch it in reruns, anyhow. I just wanted to mark the passing and, personally, show my appreciation for one of the few shows on television that I never missed an episode of. It wasn’t appointment viewing, and it wasn’t a show that got talked about on the blogs. But it was something I looked forward to every week — a solid, dependable show that rarely, if ever, let me down. And that, in and of itself, is a rarity on network television these days. I’ll miss the show’s swagger. Its bravado. Its intelligence. And its smug superiority. But most of all, I’ll miss its heart.

Denny Crane / Dustin Rowles

Industry | December 9, 2008 |

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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