Shout! Factory // 2003 // 960 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge P.S. Colbert // April 9th, 2014
":The firm Bobby Donnell turned over to us is one of integrity. The name on this place, its reputation, it means something. That man demeans the practice of law!"
Take it from me: one doesn't have to know what went on before in order to understand and fully appreciate The Practice: The Final Season.
As it happens, the run of this Emmy-magnetic David E. Kelly creation -- centered on the trials and tribulations of a sometimes struggling, sometimes thriving, but always lively law firm -- happened to coincide with the end of my own B.C. (Before Children) period, and I missed out completely.
No matter. Going into its eighth year, even longtime fans of this legal procedural would hardly recognize the place. The five cherubic, waifish leading actors the series had turned into stars -- Dylan McDermott, Lara Flynn-Boyle, Kelli Williams, Lisa Gay Hamilton and Marla Sokoloff -- were gone; the result of drastic budget cuts imposed by ABC in exchange for renewing the show, despite faltering Nielsen numbers. (McDermott and Sokoloff would reprise their characters here with a couple of guest appearances each, and Williams would return to direct one episode).
Former junior partners Eugene Young (Steve Harris, 12 Rounds), Jimmy Berluti (Michael Badalucco, Mac), and Ellenor Frutt (Camryn Manheim, Ghost Whisperer) now have their names on the door, with second year associate Jamie Stringer (Jessica Capshaw, Grey's Anatomy), and paralegal Tara Wilson (Rhona Mitra, Strike Back), rounding out the office staff.
Oh, wait -- there is one more last minute addition to the office: An attorney friend of Ellenor's named Alan Shore (James Spader, Secretary), who, by his own admission, "needs a break."
How do I explain Mr. Shore? Better to let the following conversation between he and Ellenor do the job:
Ellenor: You got fired from your last firm for embezzling.
Ellenor: You threatened extortion your first week here.
Shore: That was an accident.
Ellenor: You broke privilege, for which you almost got disbarred.
Ellenor: Sleep with witnesses...
Shore: Just the one.
Ellenor: And now I found out you actually impersonated an opposing party so
you could settle a case. That's not just fraud; that's probably criminal. Alan,
you are seriously self-destructive.
Shore: Isn't everybody?
Needless to say, in almost no time since joining, Shore has effectively hamstrung the entire office. Not surprisingly, this doesn't go down well with everybody involved, which inevitably leads to the introduction of an even more eccentric attorney named Denny Crane (William Shatner, The Horror At 37,000 Feet), and the set-up for Boston Legal, the highly successful series spun-off from this final season. But, let's not get ahead of ourselves.
On the docket are a slew of clients you wouldn't dare refer to Perry Mason. There's the taxidermist who has stuffed and mounted his mother's head; a pregnant nun, intent on suing her archdiocese for wrongful termination ("I only made one mistake!"); a man seeking damages for his exploded anus -- delicacy prohibits me from elaborating further.
Of course, there's no way these kind of shenanigans would be allowed to continue on a regular basis were they performed by amateurs, and the cast of The Practice is nothing if not a top-notch ensemble all 'round. Who can possibly compete with Spader, especially considering there's nobody even remotely like him?! Fortunately, he's a team player, and his efforts here served him well, earning the actor his first Emmy award.
There are some pretty impressive guest stars, too. First and foremost, Sharon Stone appears in a three episode arc as a defense attorney claiming to hear the word of (a female) God. Sounds like a silly contrivance, no? In fact, Ms. Stone also deservedly won an Emmy for what surely stands as her best work since appearing in Martin Scorsese's Casino. Avid starlet-gazers can also look forward to seeing Rebecca DeMornay (Risky Business), Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men), and America's eternal sweetheart, Betty White (Hot In Cleveland).
And like I said: there's William Shatner. As Denny Crane.
Shout! Factory presents them in all their glory, taking over from Fox, which sadly, never got farther than releasing a slim "Volume 1" edition, which combined selected episodes from the first two seasons. The anamorphic widescreen image is fairly good, though occasionally the picture tends towards softness, particularly in regards to background detail. The stereo sound manages to deliver without astounding, and like the majority of Shout! Factory releases, this one suffers from a complete lack of subtitle options. No extras either, I'm afraid.
The key words for The Practice are audacity and outlandishness, and though things get a mite cutesy on occasion, there's no disputing the power of writer David E. Kelly's pen. The closeout season of this long-running favorite successfully manages to pull off a double whammy by simultaneously delivering a satisfying finale for one series and a great running start for another.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 960 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated