In December 2008 one of the most entertaining courtroom shows of the past decade came to a close and it should go without saying that Boston Legal enjoyed a successful run. Several Emmy nominations and wins, over 100 episodes, and a total of five seasons mean that there was a steady amount of viewers tuning in each week to see what was cooking at Crane, Poole, and Schmidt. Then again, anybody familiar with David E. Kelley's productions (The Practice and Alley McBeal) should know that already, because there has been a set precedent of quality.
If for any reason you don't know what Boston Legal is all about, let me fill you in. Basically, the show takes place within the capital of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and focuses on the misadventures of a law firm known as Crane, Poole, and Schmidt. Each week the show features the court cases and life drama of its main cast. It's truly not a special set up for a series, but the quality of the writing staff and the experienced ensemble of actors make it extraordinary. What more can you say about a series that stars James Spader, William Shatner, Candice Bergen, and John Larroquette?
Over the course of the first few seasons the crew was shifted about in order to find an appropriate amount of chemistry. Naturally Shatner, Spader, Bergen, and Larroquette have remained predominantly at the top of the billing. For this season the only other associates we have running (and popping) through the halls of Crane, Poole, and Schmidt are Jerry Espenson (Christian Clemenson) and Katie Lloyd (Tara Summers). I suppose it would have complicated matters to introduce anyone else this late in the game, though it's nice to see a few familiar faces appear this year as well (Rene Auberjonois anyone?). With the cast being as solid as ever, how do the twelve episodes of the final season fair?
First of all I want to say that Boston Legal's final season basically hit all of my expectations. The episodes housed within are what we have come to demand from the series and it doesn't really stray from the established path until the finale. What this means is that we get the great with the not-so-great, though thankfully the former outweighs the latter.
What's so good about this season? Well, primarily it's the show's focus on Alan Shore's courtroom antics and his relationship with Denny Crane. This season you get to see Alan go up against Big Tobacco, the pharmaceutical industry, and even the Supreme Court itself. There's no giant that Alan won't take a swing at and he is arguably the heaviest hitting attorney this year. Of course the other attorneys get their chance in court as well with Carl attempting to save Shirley's granddaughter from jail, Jerry tries to keep Denny out of jail when he shoots a mugger in the foot, and Shirley defends a woman who had an explosive visit with her doctor. Katie more or less plays Jerry's sidekick this season and Denny is simply Denny, though he does take on a big role in a fascinating case where a prison guard kills an inmate in the middle of a botched lethal injection.
A big plotline that develops during the course of this season is the progression of Denny's "mad cow" disease. He has more episodes and slowly, but surely, the realization that he truly does have Alzheimer's starts to sink in. Denny and Alan seem to grow closer as they fight to save his mental faculties and others are brought in on the loop as well. I must say that as usual Shatner does a brilliant job as Denny Crane. He brings the appropriate amount of levity and tone to the character when necessary, and his performances this season are particularly outstanding. In more ways than one Boston Legal was a show primarily about Denny Crane and his larger than life persona. I suppose one could argue that Shatner fits that bill to the letter and in many ways Denny is a reflection of himself. There are certainly enough references that break the fourth wall throughout the show, including one regarding Denny doing Priceline commercials.
So with as much to appreciate from this season as we have, what's not to love? Well, I've never appreciated the show's soap-boxing when it comes to political views and such, and considering this season occurred during the Presidential Election, I assure you there's more preaching than you can shake a stick at. This season in particular became an outlet for the writers to express their opinions and views through their characters. Serving as a perfect example of this is an episode with Cheri Oteri guest-starring as a woman who was fired for voting for John McCain (because she thought Sarah Palin was spunky). This whole storyline bashes you over the head and there's a conversation between Shirley and Alan that basically says if you didn't vote for Barrack Obama then you're an idiot borderline unfit to deserve the privilege of voting. It's not subtle at all, it's not funny, and it's not tongue in cheek. It's the writers unabashedly using the show as a way to preach their opinions, and it just feels too forced for its own good. I just don't tune into a courtroom drama for one-sided political commentary.
Having other's political opinions shoved down your throat may not be my favorite form of entertainment, but I'm pleased to say that the final season of Boston Legal is a hit regardless of that. The opinionated writing staff and actors have crafted such a loving group of characters that you simply want to see more of. The show rarely takes risks, and you can basically rest assured that Crane, Poole, and Schmidt will win just about every case they take, but there are quite a few shakeups this year. With some weddings on the docket, big changes at the company in place, and one of its lead characters suffering from a serious illness there's quite a lot of depth here. If you enjoyed the other seasons then this one will find an easy and welcome home in your collection. Highly Recommended.
Boston Legal season five is presented with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio just like the previous years. The transfer for this DVD set is equally as impressive as the prior sets and it's safe to say that this show's production has been cream of the crop since the first year. The colors are rich and warm, there's some incredible clarity, and for a standard definition release there are several other high notes. It's a shame the series is not available on Blu-ray at this time, but as it stands you simply can't fight better looking shows on DVD. From the first season to this one, the picture quality is remarkable throughout every episode.
Boston Legal's fifth season is presented exactly the same way as the prior years were. The English 2.0 mix is adequate for the dialogue driven series and though the audio quality is nice and robust, it lacks the impact that a 5.1 selection could have made. Despite this, there is still a nice level of clarity and crispness. Once again there are also subtitles for English, French, and Spanish.
The first feature you'll come across in this season of Boston Legal is on the second disc. "Denny and Alan: Friends to the End" (14:36) looks at the friendship that drives much of the series. With clips from all five seasons and commentary by most of the cast and production crew this feature does a nice job shedding light on their relationship. Granted if you watched the show you'd basically get the gist of their friendship anyway, but a feature dedicated to them seems appropriate somehow.
"Denny's Daughter: The Untold Story" (21:42) features a nice introduction by Executive Producer Bill D'Elia. Bill goes on to fill us in on some details about a dropped storyline about Denny Crane's long-lost daughter. There was essentially a whole episode's worth of material shot for her introduction and at the end they decided it was too little, too late. Her character would have involved multiple episodes to bring her about in a reasonable fashion so they axed her and brought the actress in for another role in an episode this season. This feature includes every scene that was cut and it's more or less half of an episode that offers some very interesting moments.
"Closing Statement: The Boston Legal Series Finale" (13:17) is a nice way to bring the set to a close as it looks at the finale (shocking, I know). The cast and crew gets together to talk about their experience working on the show and episode, as well as their impressions of it. It's a nice bit of reflection on the show's final moments. Aside from these three featurettes there are eleven deleted scenes on the final disc. These all receive an informative introduction by Bill D'Elia and there are some comments by David E. Kelley as well to help put them into perspective. For the most part these scenes just extend some remaining ones, but they managed to get cut somewhere along the way because they just didn't fit in.
Boston Legal was a very entertaining show and it stood out for many reasons. Everything from the writing to the acting and editing captured a certain energy that made it absolutely pop in just about every moment. Sure the show pushed its political and societal agendas a little too often, but the fact remains that despite those nitpicky flaws this was one of the best courtroom series from the past decade or more. If you haven't seen this series then you owe it to yourself to pick up the first season and give it a whirl. As far as this season is concerned I fell it brings an appropriate close to the show and it stands toe to toe with the seasons that came before it as a benchmark for quality television. Highly Recommended.
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