Fox // 2008 // 607 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // May 28th, 2009
Denny Crane (William Shatner): Hey, maybe I'll retire after this.
Alan Shore (James Spader): Don't be ridiculous...
Denny: Well, what better way to go out? My last case, in front of the Supreme Court. Now there's a finale, Alan.
Alan: They should put it on TV.
Denny: We'd get ratings.
Alan: If they promoted us. Of course, I think there's a law against promoting us.
Denny: Seems to be.
Every year, TV fans are faced with voting, eliminations and the departure of faithful friends, and I'm not talking about Survivor. With the announcements of new pilots and series being added to each network's roster, invariably fans also eventually have to wave goodbye to beloved series whose time has run out. Boston Legal: Season Five is ABC's closing argument for what was one of the greatest rides in episodic television.
Without a doubt the most eclectic legal team in TV history, the partners and associates of Boston Legal are back for their final bow. With senior partners Denny Crane (William Shatner) and Shirley Schmidt (Candace Bergen) at the helm, the lawyers of Crane, Poole, and Schmidt are back to their old courtroom antics, occasionally over-the-top plotlines and truly memorable character moments as they wrap up the series with a season five baker's dozen.
All 13 episodes of the show's fifth and final season are now available to fans with the release of Boston Legal: Season Five, spread over four discs as follows:
* "Smoke Signals"
* "Guardians and Gatekeepers"
* "Dances With Wolves"
* "True Love"
* "The Bad Seed"
* "Happy Trails"
* "Mad Cows"
* "Kill, Baby, Kill"
* "Made in China"
* "Last Call"
Hot on the heels of creator David E. Kelly's previous series The Practice, Boston Legal premiered on ABC in October 2004. By the time the show ended in December 2008, the series had just broken the 100 episode mark, despite an abbreviated 13 episode fifth season. Rumors seem to be mixed on both the show's cancellation and David E. Kelly's supposed fight to have the show renewed after the fourth season. ABC execs never really came forward to either explain the cancellation, or the reasoning behind a short final season, leaving fans somewhat in the dark as to why their beloved show was coming to an end. Fortunately, Kelly didn't relax into the home stretch and delivered some of the best character moments, plotlines and cases to ever hit the docket of Crane, Poole, and Schmidt.
As a self-confessed fan of the series from the beginning, it took me some time to get used to the frequent cast changes that occurred over the show's five years. With little explanation, recurring cast members would disappear from the show, often to be replaced by new and unknown characters. A bit of a mixed bag at first, it quickly came to seem that this approach was no different than real life, with new acquaintances and work colleagues replacing old ones in a stream-of-consciousness manner that really is true to life. Each time a familiar character left the show, I'd invariably experience a short mourning period, vowing never to like the new cast members, only to find the new members became comfortable and familiar in no time at all.
Looking back on the entire series, it's interesting to note the quirky and heartfelt relationship that developed between Denny Crane (William Shatner) and Alan Shore (James Spader) grew from what seemed to be an afterthought in the early parts of the first season, into one of the cornerstones of the series that continued to keep old fans coming back, while also drawing new ones. For me at least, the special chemistry Shatner and Spader brought to their on-screen friendship, as well as the strong writing brought to their scenes, will be one of the unique features of Boston Legal that I will miss most.
Another unique element of the series was the consistent caliber and quality of the recurring cast and guest appearances. From Meredith Eaton-Gilden's portrayal of the little person lawyer Bethany Horowitze to Betty White's brilliant portrayal of Alan's slightly insane assistant, the supporting cast of Boston Legal was never short of brilliant. The recurring cast of judges also kept the stories entertaining, from Shelley Berman's memorable recurring portrayal of Judge Robert Sanders (a.k.a. the "poppycock" guy) to Henry Gibson's portrayal of Judge Clark Brown, the courtroom was never boring. The series' guest star list reads like a veritable "who's who" of Hollywood: Ed Begley, Jr., William Daniels, Delta Burke, Rupert Everett, Michael J. Fox, Parker Posey, Ethan Phillips, Robert Wagner and a whole host of impressive character actors.
I'd be guilty indeed if I didn't address the often humorous but no less respectful way the show addressed both Alzheimer's Disease and Asperger syndrome. Over the course of the series, Denny Crane (Shatner) began to realize his forgetfulness and off-the-wall behavior were a result of developing Alzheimer's disease and the related symptoms. Even though the audience laughed at Crane's behavior at times, the disease itself was never taken lightly and the show made strides towards familiarizing the public with this increasingly common illness. Similarly, Asperger syndrome, a little-known variant of autism, was brought to light through the character of Jerry Espenson (Christian Clemenson). A brilliant lawyer, Espenson learns to manage his symptoms through various therapies and serves as a positive example of flourishing in the face of adversity, while increasing awareness of a potentially socially crippling condition.
The menus on each DVD feature the show's catchy theme and a static image of one of the core cast members, while character-specific clips play in the background. Boston Legal: Season Five delivers a solid presentation on both the audio and video fronts. The video presentation is solid throughout, with strong colors and contrast, and excellent clarity. The audio mix is well balanced between music, ambient sound and dialog, even employing surround channels at times for a slightly more immersive experience.
Rounding out the content on Boston Legal: Season Five, "Stricken From The Record!" delivers 11 deleted scenes with introductions by executive producer/director Bill D'Elia; "Denny And Alan: Friends To The End" gives a retrospective of what ultimately came to be the core relationship that anchored the entire series, as cast and production members comment along the way. This featurette alone is worth its weight in gold. "Denny's Daughter: The Untold Story" talks about how an entire subplot that dealt with Denny meeting a daughter he didn't know he had, was ultimately excised and included in its entirety as a bonus feature. "Closing Statement: The Boston Legal Series Finale" joins the crew and creative team as they talk relatively spoiler-free about the end of the series and the final episode, including the challenge of delivering a satisfying end to a show with such a loyal fan base.
I definitely get the decision to cancel a TV series is almost solely driven by lost advertising revenues resulting from dropping ratings, but I'm still baffled by the cancellation of Boston Legal. An Emmy award-winning series, Boston Legal should easily have been able to keep going strong for a few more seasons. Another nit worth picking is the relatively thin assortment of extra features on this release. Boston Legal deserved an appropriate final send-off, but you really won't find that here. Notably absent are episode commentaries and an in-depth cast and crew retrospective looking back on the entire series.
Boston Legal delivered more than 100 high-quality episodes over the course of five years, setting the bar very high for future projects from David E. Kelly and TV dramas in general. Fans of the show can only hope that Mr. Kelly is currently hard at work on his next TV project, while they shed a tear and say farewell to the Crane, Poole, and Schmidt family.
Boston Legal: Season Five closes the book on what is arguably one of
the best TV series ever produced and certainly the pinnacle of David E. Kelly's
career. Even with reservations about the thin offering of special features, this
release is a must-have for fans. Even if you've never been a fan of David E.
Kelly's work in the past, or don't generally prefer legal dramas, I encourage
you to start at the beginning and enjoy Boston Legal. You won't be
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 607 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted scenes
* Fan Site