The following’s a quote from last week’s Boston Legal. But first, my server has been drinking again, and the post about my Mom didn’t show on many blogs. Will repost it on Thursday. On another personal note, James Spader is the only actor I would be willing to make myself a fool over, maybe….
The thing about this photo is: AS A YOUNG WOMAN YOU WERE DIVINE, IN YOUR MATURITY, SUBLIME
Allan Shore (James Spader) to Shirley Schmidt (Candice Bergen) Boston Legal.
Words for the ages. The way James Spader says it makes it even more poetic. He’s an actor who isn’t afraid to truly act. James Spader of Sex, Lies &…says it to Candice Bergen of The Group. That line works on many levels as so does the show. It’s rare to find so much great acting in a show. And great writers working with great lines and great stories.
Denny’s always reasuring himself of his brilliance and fame by saying and thinking “I’m Denny Crane, Denny Crane.” Every week after BL, I practice saying, outloud, “I’m Pia Savage, I’m…” and then I dissolve into laughter. That and a Metrocard might get me on the subway, and maybe Mad Cow.
I leave it to the Esoteric Wombat to further analyze our favorite TV show.
Blogging has done many wonderful thigns for me, and one of the best is meeting many wonderful people. I wouldn’t have met EW without blogging, and I can’t imagine not knowing him.
James Spader and Candice Bergan bond over the defense of a starving man who saw a meal in his dead best friend, whose remains he was cremating when he realized, “hey, I haven’t eaten in weeks”
William Shatner goes to court with a woman who’s about three feet tall, who it happens he’s infatuated with.
James Spader and William Shatner get in the ring to wrestle for the right to sleep with Candice Bergan
And God Damn! I haven’t even told you about the murder trial yet! And shit that’s the one with that creepy peeping tom and the pissed off judge who was married to the deceased, who slept around, and holy shit is that Peg Bundy?
Hell of a way to spend an hour on a Tuesday night. And I’ve just now come with a word to describe it.
Boston Legal is a spectacle.
And don’t let that fool you; It’s not all flash–though shock and awe are to be expected when William Tiberous Shatner (as he called himself during his roast on Comedy Central… did you see that? It was hilarious) steps into a courtroom– There is plenty of substance behind the star-studded ensemble cast and the fact that one particular law firm seems to get all the freaky cases. It’s one of the most socially conscientious shows on the air, and not in a preachy way like the last few seasons of M*A*S*H. And the dialogue… as an actor I would water at the mouth to be fed scripts like those.
If you’ve stopped by here often, you’ve no doubt heard of it.
Along with taste in music, my preference for the show above and beyond any other currently being aired is something I share with our esteemed electric-haired one. And what’s not to love? James Spader, Candice Bergan, and William fucking Shatner under one roof, intelligent comedy that isn’t inhibitave to human drama… it executes on a lot of things that are lost on mainstream TV. Especially that of the 90s–the post-reality tv peak portion of this decade has seen a bit of a resurgence– oh and by the way have I ever told you how glad I was when Friends ended? But I digress
I can’t get enough of James Spader as Alan Shore. Pia can’t either of course, though I lack her additional, shall we say, “perspective.” His wit is razor sharp, and his delivery finely tuned, both in the comedic and the dramatic. Furthermore, he has a sense of irony that is without parallel. As an actor he’s one of the foremost of my role models.
The first episode of the show I saw was the second one of the second season. I can pinpoint the exact moment I became hooked. Alan Shore was cross-examining a murder victim’s housekeeper, who had just given unexpected and damaging testimony. He started to ask sort of softball and yet expository questions, all the while stretching his arm in the same manner that a pitcher might.
“Mr Shore, what are you doing?”
“I’m warming up.”
And the lens flares as he throws his finger out at the witness
“Did you kill Joe Nolan?”
See that’s the other thing. Boston Legal is expertly shot, and expertly paced. Its beat, as communicated by the lens flares and the music (I’ll get to that later), is engaging, and permeates throughout all aspects of production. The actors work off of it, but not in a way that seems disingenuous.
Of course, at times the fourth wall is broken, usually by Alan or Denny, and it’s a device employed often to great hilarity. The second episode of the third season was a prime example. I’d quote it, but I figure since I could just as easily show the clip. Damn do I love Youtube.
And oh yes, the music. Blues guitar in the vein of early Clapton, Hendrix, and Stevie Ray Vaughn with a sometimes soothing, sometimes howling vocal part. Hell, I could watch an hour consisting of just the bumps they play when transitioning between scenes, where they show beautiful shots of Boston while the guitar lays down hot licks. And the insertion of guitar licks on occasion into the scenes is often invigorating. I’ve made mention in this space of my love of the blues. I’m also a tremendous fan of the use of music to drive the energy of a scene. And where that category is concerned, Boston Legal is among the top in my book, along with Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, and everything that’s ever been done by Quentin Tarantino. And there’s nothing quite like a cutting guitar riff to hammer in a beat, or a rapturous blues singer to add ambiance to those balcony scenes.
The ensemble cast and the characters they portray are what any TV writer would hope for to work with. Alan and Denny are a comic duo in the classic sense. Which isn’t to say that there’s nothing new, and in fact they’re vastly different from say, Abbot and Costello, but their relationship is built on that tradition. And on such time-honored ground, something new and unique has been created. A gun-toting legendary attorney with “Mad Cow” and a morose yet funny, somewhat narcissistic, crooked but honorable intellectual. Both are big time charismatic showmen in the courtroom, and they bounce off each other in a way that makes them devastating in court together. Which is good, because it seems that no one else in the firm will defend them when the shit hits the fan and their nefarious habits come to turn on them. Denny gets Alan off. Alan gets Denny off. Of course, they’re not gay–both of them exhibit rampant heterosexuality.–but they have slept together.
They both lust after Shirley Shmidt (for the record, and despite the fact that Candice Bergan is 40 years older than me, I get it) and somehow that hasn’t come between them until now that Alan has finally put a real move on, the opening line of which is I’m sure the one Pia said in a previous post she’d quote in her intro to this piece. Which is odd, actually, because Alan refused to show Denny the tasteful black and white nudes of a nineteen year old Shirley he bought off the widow of an ex-lover of hers. (Curse network television and its churlish “decency” statutes). I was hopeful for this episode, and remain such for the future, but I was disappointed. Is it weird that I have such a desire to see Alan Shore, a character I identify with on many levels, sleep with Shirley Shmidt? Not that I’m particularly shocked if it is, I mean I’m a strange person and I take pride in it, but it can be useful to pinpoint the ways which one is strange. But the interaction between Alan and Shirley has been a pleasure since they first met. (I apologize for the quality on that one… I don’t quite have the resources to cut a higher-resolution sample of that scene from my archives. and that one was shot with a camcorder)
I never watched Murphy Brown, save for clips, but I’ve always loved to see Candice Bergan (the daughter of Edgar Bergan and the sister of Charlie McCarthy) whenever she popped up . Her poise and delivery have always been fantastic for comedy, and yet so eloquent as to give dramatic moments an almost desperate reality. Vis a vis, the episode in the first season, when she had to cross-examine a woman with Stage Four Alzheimers, and we found out in the end that her father suffered from the disease. It was downright painful. In this show her comic disposition is more reactive. She’s not quite the “straight man”, (that’s Rene Auberjonois’ Paul Lewiston who embodies for me every administrator I’ve ever had a cheerfully adversarial relationship with. You know they’re good people and you don’t bear them any real ill will, it’s just that you understand that your purposes in life are at least on one level in fundamental opposition), as most of her witticisms seem to be returning fire, but more to the point she’s the sane woman surrounded by nutcases who she happens to adore.
And then there’s Brad Chase, the rapid-fire litigator (“Do you do tongue push-ups?) who looks like a Ken Doll but doesn’t play the part. Doesn’t flinch as he punches out a deranged ex-con who barged into the courtroom with homemade plastic explosive. At first he hated Alan, though later on he came to better terms with him. I suspect that Alan always somewhat liked him, even though he always pokes fun at him. One feels obliged when one is dealing with a man who hesitates to say “lesbian” or “vagina” (I don’t flinch at the word and perhaps even say it more than some of my female friends, but personally I prefer “vulva.” Has a nice feel as it comes off your lips. Which I guess is what makes it such a suitable descriptor) Denny loves him like a son, but the two don’t interact as much as one would think. Brad didn’t get Lori Colson in the first season, but he got Denise in the second. I wonder if I was the only one who was laughing when he found out that she married Daniel Post in the third.
I hardly have the space nor the time (I should really have already submitted this… I work best when there’s a bit of a ticking clock) to examine the entire cast, but suffice to say, the possible interactions between the characters make me fuck-all of jealous of anyone writing for that show. And I love the new guy now. Last I saw Craig Bierko was in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and he was only around for three scenes, but you could tell that he had the chops and just needed something to roll with. Well, he found it.
I have no doubt that you’re going to be hearing from me (if you stop by and, you know, you’re always welcome), Pia, and once she makes it over here and is able to watch at the same time as us, Miz B about, between the three of us, probably each and every episode that airs this season, so I hope I’ve taken steps to clue you in to what the fuss is about. Of course, in the words of Lavar Burton, you don’t have to take my word for it. And yes I realize that unless some of you have kids around my age…ish, perhaps only one person who reads this will get it. Tuesdays at ten. Be there.
Just wanted to add that I have always thought James Spader to be the Alan Bates of my generation. And Alan Bates was in the single greatest sexiest wrestling scene ever with Oliver Reed in Women in Love. This wrestling scene was nothing like it. Had me in stitches. Can’t wait to watch it again. For the record I enjoy watching Spader grow into middle age. Have gotten comments about that