Boston Legal [s4 ep01]: "Beauty and the Beast"
*** Spoiler Warning ***
Key Plot Points of Season Premiere
- Denny is arrested for soliciting a prostitute after his date requests payment for sex, which Denny accepts, and then turns out to be a cop. Alan's girlfriend, Judge Gloria Weldon, tells the prosecuting attorney to drop the case. Earlier in the evening in question, Alan & Gloria were on a double date with Denny and the female cop, and Gloria feels the cop's acting job as a genuine date went beyond entrapment before payment was requested.
- Shirley gets sued for retracting a donation to Stanford for political reasons. She asks Alan to represent her. Opposing council turns out to be Lorraine Weller (Saffron Burrows), an irresistable and compulsively tempting ex-flame of Alan's. He tries to resist her advances but cheats on Gloria twice in the court elevator. From next week's previews, it appears Shirley hires Lorraine at Crane, Poole & Schmidt.
- Carl Sack (John Larroquette), is a senior partner who makes waves when he transfers from the New York branch to Boston. He is interpreted by several to be mean and impersonable. He gradually loosens up, and near the end of the episode we're shown that he and Shirley are secretly in a relationship.
- Sack has researched the Boston office's associates and finds a YouTube video of Clarence dressed as Clarice, singing and dancing in a duet. Clarence has entered a singing contest with a fellow shyness-recovering female friend, and they are in the finals. Despite this, Sack insists Clarence leave the competition so as not to embarrass the firm. After an empassioned plea from Clarence regarding the quarkiness and family nature of the Boston branch, Sack backs down, and Clarence keeps his job. Sack turns down an invitation to attend the contest but secretly shows up and watches Clarence and his friend sing, to which he is surprisingly amused.
- Jerry Espenson is drafted to help out newly-graduated and recently-hired associate Katie Lloyd (Tara Summers) in a challenging murder trial, her first trial ever. The case is made more difficult by the defendant being silent and aggressive. Katie's niceness, patience, persistence, and soft, British voice eventually lead to her defendant opening up to her. She believes he's genuinely innocent despite all the evidence and circumstance stacked against him. The defendant won't accept help from Alan, and Jerry insists to Katie that it will be her sweet demeanor and faith in the client that will get a jury to side with her. The story will continue into future episodes.
Opinions and Observations
- I love this show. It's the perfect blend of preposterous quirkiness, dry humor, serious drama, even more serious social commentary, and all around comforting entertainment. Some subplots, like this episode's storyline about Shirley getting sued by a university, aren't that great, and some episodes are better than others. But, there's always at least one redeeming quality per episode, and this one had several gems in it.
- David E. Kelley loves shuffling around the casts of his shows, and I think Boston Legal has seen the most changes. There's of course the returning "big three" of James Spader, Candice Bergen, and William Shatner. This season the characters of Paul Lewiston (Rene Auberjonois), Denise Bauer (Julie Bowen), Brad Chase (Mark Valley), and Claire Simms (Constance Zimmer) are all out or, at best, reduced to recurring status. Tough senior partner Carl Sack (John Larroquette), sweet British newbie Katie Lloyd (Tara Summers), and Alan's ex-flame Lorraine Weller (Saffron Burrows) are all new. Christian Clemenson is promoted to main cast as Jerry Espenson, the former tax lawyer who's dealing with Asperger's Syndrome and taking on trial cases. And, Gary Anthony Williams continues to get opening credits billing he started getting midway through last season as shy assistant-turned-lawyer Clarence Bell who sometimes cross-dresses as Clarice to deal with his shyness.
- I'm thrilled about the new cast. I think David E. Kelley finally got it right. The characters he got rid of were all boring and under-used anyway. The dysfunctional but likable and relatable characters of Jerry and Clarence add innocence and even more quirkiness to the freak show that is this law firm. Carl Sack acts as the much overdue love interest for Shirley Schmidt. I'm a little worried that Lorraine Weller will turn into the Alan Shore sex partner of the month and not be interesting after that, but I'm intrigued by the fresh but unshakable Katie Lloyd character.
Hopes, Concerns, or Expectations for New Season
- I hope the cast changes bring a fresh new chemistry to the show. It already appears that it will.
- Even though Shirley is in a relationship with Carl Sack, I hope we see more moments of intimate yet plutonic friendship between her and Denny Crane, like we did in this episode. Denny singing "You Are My Sunshine" to Shirley while she rested her head on his shoulder, after a discussion about getting older and remembering happier times, was the best moment of the episode.
- I also hope we get more social and political commentary in future episodes. This show always does a great job showing you two sides of an important issue and then hitting one side of the argument out of the park. It's always powerful whether you agree with the viewpoint or not.