In the realm of shows from my younger years that I still remember fondly, there is Boston Legal. A spin-off of the show The Practice, this one followed the continuing career of the popular character, Alan Shore. He went to work at the very large firm Crane, Poole and Schmidt. It was a very funny and very smart show that looked at the various issues of the day in a legal way, while still examining things critically. Since you can see in the bar above that I have done a character analysis of Alan Shore, you can imagine that the bulk of my favorite episodes are about him primarily, but it was a great show with lots of the characters. Here’s hoping you enjoyed it too.
This was an episode that felt very person to me, given how I am a guarded person, emotionally. An old friend of Alan’s comes in, asking him to help her very artistically gifted daughter get into a school for exemplary children. They have denied her because she was injured and suffered nerve damage in her face, making it impossible for her to smile. The conversations with her, along with her unique perspective made the episode very warm and fuzzy. Plus, seeing how she shows her appreciation to Alan for his help is just so happy-making. It’s feel-good and not as funny as other episodes. It’s all about the fuzzies.
9. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
I loved the episodes with Betty White in them. She has a gift at being this warm-hearted but very smarmy smartass who can bring a lot of charm to the role. This episode had her trying to break a friend of hers out of an old-folk’s home, because her friend’s life was being held hostage by a cruel and evil man who had her as a “ward.” She goes to Alan, who she had a repore with and gets him to help her stop the man. In addition to being a fun episode with Betty White in it, there was also a REALLY good demonstration of Alan’s darker side, when he finally is able to stop the man from totally destroying the old woman’s life and selling it. For real, he was such a boss in how he does it that you can’t help but be impressed. Oh, and there is this charming sub-plot with Shirley trying to help a man getting a divorce keep his Victorian Erotica collection. That part is funny.
8. Helping Hands
A character who I wished had been a larger one in the series was Daniel Post, played by Michael J. Fox. In this episode, he second chairs a case with Denise, defending a teacher from malicious parents who are suing her for what they believe was negligence that led to their child’s death. Daniel’s work as a lawyer showed that he had the chops for this kind of show, and it’s a pity that his role was so brief. I get why, given what kind of character it was, but still. Kind of wish he could have been on longer. There was also the case Alan was doing, defending a colleague and friend, Jerry Espenson, against his own firm. How that subplot ends is actually pretty interesting, showing a lot about several characters.
7. Legal Deficits
One of my favorite adversarial characters in anything was Melvin Palmer, who debuted in this episode. His unending battle with Alan Shore is so funny, given how Palmer is a man who has a very big display if being down-home and folksy, but it’s all a front. Underneath it all, he is an amoral man who doesn’t care about anything. It’s all for show. And Alan hates his guts. He makes a comparison between him and one of those clown dolls that you hit and it comes back up. In this episode, Alan’s assistant, Melissa, is $50,000 in debt. Palmer is representing to credit card company who is her debtor. How Alan attacks Palmer is just awesome. I’m with Melissa in saying that it is one of the sexiest things I’ve ever seen. Plus, it starts off their little war, which is so much fun to watch.
6. Son of the Defender
This episode combined some REALLY old footage of a show that William Shatner had almost been in, with him as a lawyer when he was much younger. It comes back in this episode, when Denny and several other people in the firm are taken hostage by a man who believes that the man who was charged but acquitted for murdering his mother was guilty. So, they replay the case, with several hostages acting as the jury. It is an interesting look into Denny’s psyche as he is facing down the demons of his past. You also learn about the turbulent relationship he had with his father and how that shaped him as a lawyer. Meanwhile, Alan is in jail after being held in contempt, when defending a prostitute he knows and the senator she was with. That part is funny.
5. No Brains Left Behind
Another character who was woefully under-used in the show was Shirley Schmidt’s grandaughter, Marlena. Another smary smartass who is fun to watch, the kid gets into trouble when she takes the standardized tests that her classmates were given, shreds them and throws the confetti all over the Principle’s office. Shirley defends her, and watching the kid beat the hell out of everyone there with her wit and intellect is just great. Granted, She annoys the hell out of Shirley, but it is so fun to watch. Later, she is assisting Alan and Denny in their mission to join the military. I was kind of hoping that the kid would become something of a protegee to Alan, which would have worked, considering his revelation that he only saw women as sexual objects. It would have given him a new perspective and a new experience. Still, awesome episode and it was far too brief.
4. Brotherly Love
Another character who I thought was so fun and wished there had been more of him was Frankie Cox. A completely unethical and very chipper lawyer who has been arrested for helping his brother hide evidence after his brother murdered his wife. He goes to Alan for defense, coming off as a oddball attorney who wasn’t above doing bad stuff to get the job done. Despite being kind of a scuzzy guy, there was something so likeable. And seeing the testimony he gave about his brother was just so heart-warming. Sure, he did a bad thing, but his motives were pure. It’s a pity we never got to see him again, but he was fun while we could.
3. Trial of the Century
As season finales go, this one was great! Alan and Denny team up to defend a pair of brothers who are accused of killing their father. This is another episode where Denny’s mental health is called into play, but he is awesome. The thing that shines in this case is the legal work. The back-and-forth between these two legal titans and how they play off one-another is just awesome! And when the case isn’t looking good, the way that they are able to resolve the situation is incredible! It’s an old trick, but damn it all, in the right hands, it works brilliantly. It’s both feel-good and compelling to watch. Everything that it is supposed to be.
2. The Bride Wore Blood
An aspect of Alan Shore that this show didn’t go into the same way its predecessor did was his dark side. There were a few episodes where it was on display in a large way, but rarely do you get to see it in all it’s glory. In this episode, and old lover of Alan’s comes running to him in a courthouse in a wedding dress, asking for his council. The catch is – it’s covered in blood. She’s being arrested for murder, with Alan as her council. The case starts to unravel a dark story about his client, which has Alan confronting his own darkness in one of the most awesome climaxes in the entire show. For real, I could watch the scene where he interrogates her about the entire story again and again. It also confronts Alan’s desire to do the right thing, whatever the cost. It’s intense and profound. Something this show had the talent to do in spades, when it wanted to.
And my favorite episode of Boston Legal is…
1. True Love
There are few episodes of the show that were genuinely depressing. This was one of them. In this episode, a plot about Alan and an old flame of his comes to a close. The woman’s husband is arrested for murder and she comes to him to defend him. The husband is clearly a foul human being, which leaves Alan in the position of wanting to lose the case, but being unable to, due to his own sense of integrity. However, all is not as it seems. The episode culminates in one of the most dark and painful revelations, when Alan finds out that he was used, in a horrific way. You can see it hurts him, leaving him to believe that love will never find him again. I felt for him at the end of this episode. As brief as the last season was, it had some emotionally deep moments to leave us on, even if we wonder whatever became of the people who left the firm.
This was an underrated show that didn’t get much love, but it was and still is one of my favorites.
Until next time, a quote,
“Here’s the thing about me – I am a hoot. But I insist on putting adversary back into the system. And I do it openly and notoriously for all to hear.” -Alan Shore, Boston Legal