L.A. Law (1986–1994)
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Probably the best thing that can be said about this show is that no one player was the focal point. No one character had to be the "lightning rod" for the show to be great. In an interview for the 100th show Richard Dysart, who played Leland McKenzie, the paternal "glue" of McKenzie, Brackman, Cheney, Kuzack, and Becker, told Jane Pauley that the actors weren't the genius of the show...the writers were. Awful high praise from an actor at a very candid moment.
Catch it in syndication on A&E each Monday thru Friday. You'll love it the second time around.
Steven Bochco created one of the most popular series of the '80s. It's a legal drama about a law firm in L.A. It featured some great actors who created some iconic characters. On top of that, they had great chemistry. Their interactions is half of the fun. It made a mythical sexual position an actual thing. Now that's popularity. With such a great large cast, a few defections do happen. And that is one of the reason for this show's demise. By 1992, some of the cast starts to disappear. At that point during its initial run, I lost interest. This show relies on its characters and it lost too many of them. This award winning show had 8 seasons and a movie.
To be fair to its critics, however, I can't remember ANY program that was this good that, almost abruptly, became so bad! Although I continued to watch it until the end, it was hit-and-miss at best, and sometimes just plain terrible after the fifth season.
"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.
Like the earlier Bochco show Hill Street Blues, the emphasis on one day at a time is very much a mainstay in L.A. Law. The lawyers go through every case in the courtroom over very little time that in the real world would take years and although it is not really what trials are like, it is entertaining and if you are looking for something more realistic then you should try seeing an actual televised trial. Outside of the courtroom there are tons of weirdos and sexy women that the characters come in contact with and some of their actions become deadly (eg. the lawyer who shoots himself in open court). But there is also room for comedy like Kuzak showing up at a wedding, where he is most definitely not invited in a gorilla suit and Becker screwing over one of the aspiring associates in more ways than one. All this is pure TV entertainment but what I like about this show is that it tries to take the high road once in a while and the comic relief is usually hysterical. This mix is rarely pulled off in a successful way but Bochco has created such a great universe that when he stumbles there is always a new try at every turn.
If you happen to catch it in syndicated reruns on cable, watch it. But it isn't worth seeking out on video, unless you really want to see the breakout rolls of Larry Drake and Blair Underwood.
Another was where I think Michael Kuzak represented a black client who was found guilty of murdering his white girlfriend I think. Now that was explosive. The client was sentenced to death, and I wish I knew if his appeal succeeded.
It's been said that the popularity of L.A. Law propelled many people to study law. Maybe. Now I guess it's Suits is the show to watch.
*** out of ****
It also is much more serious than some of the later series he has done. While this series has some comedy, it has a much more serious tone than Ally McBeal or House MD which have been his later work. This series not only presents more serious issues than those later shows, but also better draw more realistic characters as well.
The acting & production quality of this is very good. Richard Dysart seems the perfect actor to be the foundation of this law firm. The rest of the cast seems to fit their roles well too. Wonder if a 20 or 25 year reunion is planned for this series? A retrospective could be fun.
Towards the end of the series, more of David E Kelly's humor started showing up. In fact, the last season very much resembles a trial run of Ally McBeal in it's tone. Lets not forget Boston Legal too. Kelly has continued to develop his talents in that direction since.
If you like House MD or Ally McBeal, you will like this series. If you liked Boston Public (which was a little more serious) you'd like this show too. I am not sure if David Kelly has any other directions he can head but viewers sure get a lot chance to enjoy his work.
In later years, some of the characters came & went (as with any series); some of the new ones (such as A.D.A. Tommy Mullaney, Jane Galloway, C.J. Lamb & A.D.A. Zoey Clemmons) were quite likable, while others (Susan Bloom, Frank Kittridge) bordered on loathsome. The original characters were what really held the series together and made it so popular. Some of today's well- known actors (Larry Drake of 'Darkman' and Dann Florek of 'Law & Order' and 'Law & Order:SVU') got their big start with supporting roles in this series.
20 years after it ended its run, L.A. Law still has a popular following. It is beginning to see a DVD release now and here's hoping we see a complete series release. If any show is deserving of a widespread DVD release, this is it.
The exploits of the Los Angeles law firm of McKenzie,Brackman and(by season three)Becker covered the work and(to greater or lesser degrees)their lives. Even though the show had its ostensible "stars"(at the onset,it was Harry Hamlin and Susan Dey as firm mates Michael Kuzak and Grace VAn Owen,later it was Jimmy Smits as fiery attorney Victor Sifuentes,Corbin Bersen as perpetually sleazy divorce attorney Arnie Becker or Blair Underwood as smooth,black lawyer Jonathan Rollins),this show was as much about supporting players(most notably Horror/Sci-Fi staple Larry Drake as the gentle,high-functioning retarded office worker Benny Stulwicz,Alan Rachins as the upright,uptight head of litigation Douglas Brackman,John Spenser as rumpled,recovering alcoholic lawyer Tommy Mulaney and,of course,veteran actor Richard Dysart as senior partner Leland McKenzie)and the writing,which tackled a whole smörgåsbord of issues of the day as well as a variety of cases ranging from the absurd to the morose(sometimes in the same episode!). The show had some dark turns(most notably around season five,when the show changed producers for the first of two times)and the cast became a revolving door of "main" characters,but all in all,it still evened out to make a good run. I probably haven't laid eyes on an episode of this show in at least five years,but it would feel pretty familiar if I did. Creator Steven Bochco(post-"Hill Street Blues",pre-"NYPD Blue") and co-producer/writer David Kelley(before "Picket Fences","Boston Legal","The Practice","Ally McBeal",etc.)made a fine offering of television that I recall favorably. While I may not run out to buy the eps on DVD,I wouldn't rule out watching an episode if I run across one in the vast landscape that is cable reruns.
For those waiting it on DVD as much as me, you can look it up on AMazon (under L.A. Law) and enter your email for information on when it will be available. THIS IS IMPORTANT, not so you can get the info, but because Amazon sends the number on the waiting list to the studios, so your request for info becomes a vote to release it on DVD.
REALITY is that all lawyers are Whores. They are just Whores who sell their Mouths as opposed to selling some other part of their anatomy. But LA Law would have us believe that not only are lawyers "Whores with a Heart", but that they are "Whores with a Heart" who happen to be "Beautiful People" as well. That this whole charade is set in a high powered, "top tier" law firm is truly an insult to my intelligence.
I certainly am glad that these Whores existed when I needed their services in the past, but you can be certain that I vicariously held my nose every moment that I was forced to deal with them.
The portrayal of lawyers in LA Law would be Utterly Hilarious, were it not for the fact that naive and inexperienced viewers are led to believe that lawyers are actually Good Guys who really care about their clients. The thought of the possible sorry consequences for any viewer who might actually believe that immediately drains the humor of the situation from me.
"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers" -- William Shakespeare, Henry the Sixth ll (1623)
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It's OK if there are only tapes available. Where can I buy it? Can I buy it by mail? I know there must be some way to find it in DVD, I really hope one or two DVDs contain it all, so I don't have to take care those mass tapes, tapes go mildew easily, but DVD is easy to take care of.
Somebody tell me about this please, I'd appreciate it.
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