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This popular TV drama depicted life in a large Los Angeles law firm. The plots were strongly character-based and dealt with both the personal lives and professional activities of the partners, associates, and staff. Scenes centered around the courtroom and the law offices. Often, an episode would open with a surprising twist, which would then be played out during the rest of the show.Written by
Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>
The previous post was less than favorable to this incredible show ("great actors, flawed writing"), so I just had to weigh in. For a moment, forget that "L.A. Law" presented some of the most compelling and unusual legal cases as drama (some of them so unusual, in fact, showrunner David E. Kelley would revisit them in his own "Picket Fences," "The Practice," and even "Ally McBeal").
"L.A. Law" brought black comedy back to television and presented sexuality and sensuality that actually advanced its storylines. The latter were core character traits of Corbin Bernsen's Arnold Becker and Jill Eikenberry's and Michael Tucker's Ann Kelsey and Stuart Markowicz, respectively. You can argue the tastefulness of these scenes and others, but you couldn't make a case for their gratuity.
The writing, of course, enabled the other collaborators on this show to perform at the peaks of their abilities. The show explored some of the more difficult issues of its time through our legal adversarial process. Whether surgeons should be obligated to operate on AIDS patients, the right for the terminally ill to die, the lives of the mentally challenged, sexual dysfunctions, the pressures and responsibilities of the police -- these and other episodes paved the way for the shows we're watching today. "L.A. Law" stood on the shoulders of giants, yes, but it became a giant in its own right.
Arguably the show created by Stephen Bochco and Terry Louise Fisher suffered with the departure of David. E. Kelley in its fifth season. The guys who used to run "St. Elsewhere" had a brief stint as showrunners, and viewers began tuning out when the show became less about L.A. lawyers and more about various medical maladies.
That fifth season was especially dramatic, too, as several cast members also were leaving, which freed the writers from some of the constraints of series television -- namely, that characters could not change significantly from week to week.
To dismiss "L.A. Law" as a show about yuppie lawyers is to misjudge a deep, poignant, and important book by its slick, glossy cover. Check it out.
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