Shatner Shines on 'Boston Legal'By Michelle
October 3, 2004 - 3:40 PM
William Shatner (Captain Kirk)'s new series, Boston Legal, has its prime time debut tonight at 10 on ABC. Initial reviews have mostly been positive, praising the antics of Shatner and co-star James Spader, both of whom won Emmy Awards for playing the same characters on The Practice. Deep Space Nine's Rene Auberjonois plays a recurring character on the series as well, another senior partner in the firm of Crane, Poole & Schmidt.
- The Hollywood Reporter's Barry Garron called the series "sharp and stylish drama", describing the central players of Boston Legal as belonging to a law firm "dedicated to Vince Lombardi's tenet that winning isn't everything, it's the only thing." Senior partners Denny Crane (Shatner) and Paul Lewiston (Auberjonois) "lack not only a moral compass but even the rudiments of a conscience", which Garron says is the fun of the series, creating unpredictability and risk-taking: "This is L.A. Law on crack."
- Brian Lowry of Variety (via Yahoo! compared Boston Legal to two previous legal shows by David E. Kelley, Ally McBeal and The Practice, and concluded that the new series suffers by comparisons with the predecessors. "Kelley's fertile mind still disgorges occasional gems, but for the most part here, he's delivered more rhinestones than diamonds," he wrote. The cast is "extremely attractive, talented and (at least initially) lily-white", but he felt that they were "hitting notes already seen on previous series."
- In the hometown paper of the city where the series is set, The Boston Globe's Matthew Gilbert said that the series makes Boston look great but not Boston lawyers:
They're a bunch of ego-tripping wolves wearing designer suits and placid smiles. They're damaged, and quite damaging. And they're also loads of fun to watch, as they calculate means -- smutty photos, brazen lies, intimidating eye contact -- to reach lucrative ends.This show, he noted, has the wacky office politics of Ally McBeal and Shatner as a "bloated clown...playing Shatner" which makes it great fun to watch.
- The Washington Post's Tom Shales stated his belief that Boston Legal may be "going too far but in such a crazy-daisy way that it can't help but be entertaining." Spader, he said, "goes Gucci to Gucci with William Shatner, who has a merrily cynical old time in the role of veteran attorney Denny Crane", while the characters' motivations for outrageous behavior aren't particularly explored as the bored Crane has an affair with the wife of the firm's richest client and Spader "manages the very nifty trick of playing an utterly disarming rat." While Shales felt that the show appeared to have no great aspirations, he found it quite enjoyable.
- Melanie McFarland of The Seattle Post-Intelligencer expected the series to crash and burn, saying that "If there is a record for actors who have won Emmys for central roles in quickly canceled series, William Shatner will soon be in the running." There aren't any good surprises, though there are plenty of bad ones, like a scene where a partner arrives at work with no pants on. "Captain, I don't think we can take much more of this," she joked. Tough the actors are Boston Legal's finest assets, but they can't do anything about the inane screenplay in which "every lawyer at the high-priced law firm of Crane, Poole & Schmidt looks ripped from Kelley's paper-doll collection."
- By contrast, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Rob Owen said that Boston Legal may even be better written than The Practice, from which it emerged, calling it "certainly more consistent" since the buffoonish Denny Crane didn't fit in as well with its grittier tone. "The show and its characters have all the trademark tics that have become his calling card: Quirky cases, outrageous characters, legal arguments as sermons on the mount," he observed, agreeing with other reviewers that the new series is often completely over the top with "caricatures [who] too often sub for characters." Even so, "Shatner is clearly having a blast" and there are many enjoyable moments in the spin-off.
- Robert Bianco of USA Today (via Yahoo!) said that the real star of Boston Legal is Kelley rather than his actors. "Taken on its own purposely outrageous terms, 'Boston' succeeds as a decent legal comedy led by two broadly amusing characters," he wrote. "Their act isn't for everyone, but there's no denying Spader and Shatner are well-matched scene-stealers." Like Shales and McFarland, he felt that the show "undoubtedly goes too far" but said that that was part of Kelley's appeal: "You hire a star, you get the star's act."Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.