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LA Law: Season 2
Created by the television-series whiz Steven Bochco along with Terry Louise Fisher, L.A. Law was one of the most successful series of the 80's and early 90's with a run that brought it to 172 episodes across eight seasons and into award winning territory with four Outstanding Drama Series wins and a total of fifteen Emmy's on the whole. The success of the drama series was nothing short of exemplary. Season 2 was one of the show's earlier and most successful TV seasons with a lot of the character moments that made the show a huge hit. Shout Factory's collection of season two contains the entire 20 episode run of this groundbreaking success.
The second season continues to focus on the legal going-on and personal lives of the characters involved with the firm of McKenzie, Brackman, Chaney and Kuzak. The season's wide cast of actors includes the likes of the talented Jimmy Smits, Harry Hamlin, Susan Dey, Michelle Greene, Corbin Bernsen, Jill Eikenberry, Alan Rachins, Susan Ruttan, Michael Tucker, and Richard Dysart. The star casting was one of the huge reasons behind the series' tremendous success with the creatively ambitious performances adding a lot of distinctive to the series quality writing and serving the storylines with class.
This season adds some new players to the ensemble with the young associate Jonathan Rollins (Blair Underwood) joining the ranks and a developmentally challenged clerk, Benny Stulwicz (Larry Drake) who is disabled but determined to help out at the firm and do his absolute best. Exploring the new characters adds some new fun and fascinating elements to the season and keeps things going at a fast and appropriate pace.
Some of the key storylines of the second season involve Victor's (Jimmy Smits) relationship with an intelligent but complicated woman with a bad past relationship which leads to a complicated storyline for those involved, the ongoing relationship and wedding planning for Ann Kelsey (performed with excellent confident and grace by Jill Eikenberry) and Stuart Markowitz (Michael Tucker), who happen to be married (to this day!) to each other in real-life. This romance that continues to brew and develop between these characters during the season remains a undeniably great aspect of the show.
The storyline of Douglas Brackman Jr (Alan Rachins) also becomes a large focal point of the season as he learns about a different side of his father he never knew and discovers a brother whom he never met before. It begins to unravel in an odd way and is a bit melodramatic as a storyline over the season, but this character still has a big part in the season (even if it was a somewhat over-the-top direction for the show to take).
Season 2 was the last season that involved co-creator Terry Louise Fisher, who was fired from working on the series after season 2 and who had filed a lawsuit against his co-creator Steven Bochco. Still, these behind the scenes dramatics aren't felt in the quality of the program itself as it remains a quality television production. Sure, there are a few episode storylines are going to play better than others (as is par the course of everything in production for television) but the show is a constantly well-written, performed, and quality creation that has a lot of creativity and smarts at each turn.
The series is complex and it often amazes with its depth during some of the storylines (the season finale, which guest starred the incredible James Earl Jones in a fantastic guest part as an attorney with an edge fighting with spirited determination from his own sense of racial justice) is a fascinating end to the season. Jones delivers one of the best guest spot performances that I have seen on any show and it helps to end the season on a strong note.
Of course, the main cast of characters is the star attraction and they help these stories to be just as wonderfully realized as possible with their remarkable acting chops. The series relies heavily on the performances - both the writers and the directors recognize this as a key component, as the audience gets more than just the cases and obstacles the characters face at the law firm but the behind the scenes moments within these characters lives that brings a good grounding to the series foundation and helps it to be a relatable, enjoyable, and compelling program that exceeds most of television's other procedural based series.
Conceptually one might think the show wouldn't necessarily be too different from some other network programs, but somehow it constantly finds itself being much more. It's the actors and the depth of the writing which audiences responded so positively to back when the series first premiered on air, and it's why the continued appreciation and fandom of the series continues to this day. L.A. Law has characters you can care about, connect to, and embrace in exploring while at the same time offering a compelling storyline specific to each episode. The series finds a great balance between being episodic in structure and having a continuing story approach that is rarely spotted in television. L.A. Law has held up as a quality program that is still worth seeking out - both for newcomers and for those who seek to reacquaint themselves with the series.
The first thing a fan will notice about the set's picture quality... is that it really isn't good. For those who saw any of Season 1 on DVD, it's apparent that some minor improvements have been made. However, the source footage is terrible quality-wise and there's not a whole lot that can be done about that. In creating the show, L.A. Law was always edited on videotape and the episodes presented on DVD are essentially around VHS quality (well, slightly better as there is a lack of some of the same massive degree of compression). One shouldn't expect much from these DVD transfers as a result. The episodes look dated, are lacking in definition, and are ultimately merely acceptable at best.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio fares almost about the same with a average and uninvolving stereo presentation that has weak clarity and refinement. The dialogue is easy enough to hear and understand, though. Considering the fact that this is the most important aspect, this is an acceptable audio presentation but simply one that show's it age. Without an overhaul of the original audio elements (should they even be available, which they might not be) it would certainly take considerable work for it to be better than it is here.
Unlike season one on DVD (which featured new and exclusive interviews with cast members), this set contains no bonus materials.
L.A. Law is a quality television program with excellent performances, solid writing, and a number of well developed storylines and concepts. It was one of the most popular programs during its early years and this second season set is a good representation of why the series was such a huge success. The DVD picture and audio quality isn't fabulous given the dated source material, but it's nice to be able to have the series on home media in the United States for the first time.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.