The first full season of Kelley’s “The Practice” spin-off was somewhat abbreviated. It was also a time to introduce us to the firm and new cast of characters. As is Kelley’s trademark style, we were sure of one thing. These characters would be quirky with enough of a touch of reality to keep them interesting. So as his flagship series faded away into production problems and slipping ratings, Boston Legal erupts like a phoenix from the ashes of certain death. Now as popular or more so than The Practice, Boston Legal…hits our DVD shelves for season 2. This set contains a whopping 27 episodes, which includes several originally produced for season 1. There is an awkward beginning to this season, as cast changes don’t kick in for a handful of episodes. Once the season finds its legs, however, it is better than ever.
Most of the action surrounds friends Alan Shore (Spader) and senior partner Denny Crane (Shatner). From the very beginning this coupling has been character chemistry at its best and perhaps drives the entire show. I say this because even the weakest and most outrageous stories are somehow worth watching just for the Shore/Crane antics. Shatner has certainly enjoyed a rebirth of his own with this role. The supporting cast is also very strong. Fellow Trek alumnus Rene Auberjonois plays senior partner Paul Lewiston and Candice Bergen is senior partner Shirley Schmidt. Both seem to exist only as foils for Shore and Crane. Leaving the series by the 5th episode are Rhona Mitra’s Tara and Monica Potter’s Lori. Lake Bell’s Sally left earlier to pursue sea monsters in the doomed NBC series Surface. The combination of laughs and drama continue. In spite of the often over the top Democratic rhetoric and Republican demonizing, the show offers plenty of entertainment no matter what your own philosophies. Still, Kelley just can’t seem to help himself, and when the show suffers, this is often where the weak link lies.
Each episode of Boston Legal is presented in a 1.78:1 format. The picture is enhanced for 16×9 widescreens. This is pretty good stuff, and much better than the original broadcast prints. Colors are well defined and nearly reference. Black levels are strong. There’s great detail and contrast throughout. The episodes are consistent. There aren’t any blemishes or defects in the transfer that I could detect. Sweet stuff.
The audio is not much of an improvement over the broadcast versions. The Dolby Digital 2.0 track certainly delivers the necessary dialogue in true enough fashion. Everything is clean, if not terribly dynamic.
“Legal Pad: The Words Of Boston Legal” This very short feature is led by Janet Leahy who explains the writing process for the show. There does not seem to be the story breaking meetings most common on other shows. Writers are given a scene and sent off to complete it. These scenes work their way up the chain of command to finally drafts of the show. Kelley joins for a few seconds of input.
“Exhibit A: The Look Of Boston Legal” At 9 minutes, this slightly longer feature is basically a three part look. Pete Politanoff is one of the show’s production designers and takes us on a tour of the firm sets. He breaks down the areas of the set and talks about some of the problems with shooting around so much glass. James Bagdonas is a director of photography, and he lets us take a more detailed look at the set dressings. He explains how the office surroundings attempt to match the personality of each character. Finally Loree Parral and Shelly Levine show us some of the wardrobe choices for each character.
The show has improved in season 2. Some of the political flaws are still all too present; however, the characters appear much more at home in their surroundings. The cast losses don’t really cry out to us to any strong degree. The series is on strong legs going into season 3. As a fan of The Practice, I find myself enjoying Boston Legal as a guilty pleasure of sorts. It appears there was a ton of animosity toward the transition to Boston Legal, and perhaps it’s a little disloyal to those that got messed over in the process. Can’t help it. I still love this show “just the same”.
Special Features List
- “Legal Pad: The Words of Boston Legal”
- “The Look of Boston Legal”