"I got dibs on his office": (Re-)watching L.A. Law

Discussion in 'TV Central' started by Mel O'Drama, Jan 14, 2017.

  1. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Season One


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    L.A. LAW (Pilot)

    Fresh off a complete series watch of Cagney & Lacey, I found it almost impossible to watch without comparing these two series - particularly since Terry Louise Fisher's name is attached to both series. These comparisons are likely to appear in early posts here as a natural part of my viewing transition. Hopefully any comparison will add to the process rather than detract.

    Firstly, I was aware of the pace feeling very fast to begin. The first few scenes in particular feel like they were designed to feel quite frenetic: short, punchy with lots of movement and dialogue delivered in a very quick-fire manner. It was quite dizzying at first - helped not one iota by PAL speedup. I'm still not sure whether I adjusted to the pace or the pace slowed down a little as the episode progressed. I'd lean towards the latter, but it's perhaps a bit of both. The initial - and sustained - impression is one of high, kinetic energy. The writing and production captured that perfectly, presumably as intended.

    L.A. Law does have that mid-eighties, slightly flat, pastel look that was so prevalent on TV in that era. It's how I remember the show looking. Compared with Cagney & Lacey, there's something a little artificial-feeling about L.A. Law. I went in expecting this, and was pleased to find that it's not quite as muted as I feared. There are even some walls in the office that have deep, rich colours on.

    Clothing, too, is a curate's egg. There are some elegant lines that hold up well. The men's suits in particular feel quite classic. Though there are some dodgy ties and a couple of loud patterned shirt and tie combos worn by Arnie Becker that start to enter offensive territory. The women's clothing hasn't been as disastrously mid-Eighties as it could have been. The hair and makeup feels more dated than anything but it hasn't been distracting.

    Coming from watching a show with two firm leads into a larger ensemble takes a little adjustment. Granted, the credits imply the ensemble is a hierarchical one, which is another layer to consider when experiencing the dynamics on the show. There aren't any characters I haven't enjoyed getting to know in the first few episodes.

    Arnie in particular was pleasingly brash. His response on discovering one of the firm's partners dead at the top of the show (included in the thread title) and his dirty play with the woman who wanted a clean divorce - producing evidence of her husband's lover to ensure he got to take him for all he was worth - provided the perfect showcase for his less attractive qualities. In retrospect it's occurred to me that there was little to give him balance. On paper he's a little one-dimensional. But frankly, I don't see the problem with that at this stage if his function serves the show as a whole. Which it does - perfectly.

    I don't remember Brackman being quite so slimy either. His sense of entitlement paired with the understanding that he's there because of nepotism provided some nice tension. That he got to go ugly with the transphobic dismissal of an employee only made me want to see more of him.

    In fact, there were a number of technically one-note characters that added to the landscape of the show. Roxanne is a character that I remember as being consistently likeable simply from her occasional observations. Whether she becomes more than that, I can't recall. Patricia Huston as Mrs. Brunschwager was a delight. Blubbing her way through the entire episode while wandering into completely unrelated scenes provided some huge laugh out loud moments. Perhaps the biggest laugh came in a speech at Chaney's funeral where Georgia revealed her gender identity (and Chaney's homosexuality) in a speech at the service. The organ music stopped dead and there was a cut to Mrs. Brunschwager who momentarily stopped blubbing to gulp loudly and look flabbergasted.

    Georgia's arc was an interesting one. To Rob Knepper's credit it was played for complete truth and the result was a very sympathetic portrayal.

    Jill Eikenberry as Ann Kelsey won me over in an early boardroom scene where she had quite a spiel to deliver passionately. I also appreciated the relationship between the two women on the show being one of mutual support rather than competition (again, shades of C&L).

    The jury's out for me on Michele Greene as Abby. I've pretty much forgotten her from watching it as a teen (I'd even forgotten she was part of an infamous scene down the line). Watching this episode I could understand why. She's watchable enough. But she's just so... nice. And she's also shown to be a victim. The scene where she became the good little martyr wife defending her drunken husband immediately after he'd thrown a drink over her didn't do her any favours at all. It was more pathetic than sympathetic (I found him more sympathetic than her). I'm not interested in seeing a "breaking free from the nasty man" journey. I want to see a character who is interesting in her own right. And as sweet as she is, she's not that. It could get old, but there were a couple of little moments that gave me hope for her character.

    Michael Tucker as Stuart Markowitz was a favourite of mine when I watched the show in the Eighties. His wounded teddy bear quality was evident here and so far served him well. I recall rooting for Stuart and Ann the first time round and the groundwork laid here suggests I'm likely to do it all over again.

    Victor worked well as the "eyes" of the viewer, getting to know the characters. I enjoyed his attitude and his unwillingness to compromise.

    Mario Van Peebles as Andrew Taylor was a revelation to me. I didn't remember him as being on the show (and the second episode explained why). I was distracted as it took me a little while to place him (at first, I was convinced he was one of Madonna's pretty backing dancers from her early Nineties tours). He had little to do in this episode, but was memorable all the same. His unhappiness at Victor's arrival gave an enjoyable undercurrent of conflict to his scenes, and he - to get shallow for a moment - was certainly the most attractive guy in the Pilot (pushing Hamlin and Smits into second and third place).

    Hamlin and Dysart were entirely serviceable and watchable, though neither had the gravitas that their billing suggested.

    Alfre Woodard gave the Pilot one of two Emmy wins (the other was Gregory Hoblit for Outstanding Directing). And her character's arc gives this episode much of its depth. And a meaty part it is: she's the victim of a gang rape who is also dying of leukaemia, for goodness' sake. She does good stuff in the role, as do the actors playing the rapists who were all more concerned with walking free than the stress caused to their victim (at one point I wanted someone to slap Don Swayze's smirking character). While she has a couple of bigger moments, Woodard stays subtle for the most part. Or at least as subtle as the situation allows. There's a sense that her performance is in harmony with the writing rather than trying to outdo it.

    All in all, a very strong start.
     
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  2. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    THOSE LIPS, THAT EYE

    Well - I completely didn't notice that there was no Susan Dey in the Pilot. It was only when I saw her appear here that I twigged. Poor Corbin Bernsen. In the space of an episode he got nudged from second billing to third. I can't help but surmise her arrival irked most of the cast (even if only a little) by giving her second billing and pushing all but Harry Hamlin further down the food chain.

    Anyway - Grace Van Owen is here, causing movement in the underwear department of the men on the show, which I only partially understand. She's attractive enough, but no more than any other woman in the cast. But I will say this for her: Grace has the sexiest car on the show hands down.

    [​IMG]

    It's a BMW CS. And being a 1974 model it's vintage even by the standards of the time.

    Now, I watched a run of three episodes last night, including the Pilot, so I may be off. But I'm pretty sure this episode included a memorable line directed at Ann:

    It made me smile, even though I'm not quite sure if it was meant as an insult or a grudging compliment. The character who used it had been putting Ann down over the first couple of episodes, calling her - among other things - "butch". It feels like an attempt to introduce some sexism into the show: a stereotypical male response to an assertive women. It didn't quite work for me, though. Not least because Jill Eikenberry is as far from "butch" as it's possible to be. Though I suppose it could be said the scenes highlight the inaccuracy of such put-downs.

    The Ann/Stuart stuff has become the ongoing plot I'm enjoying the most so far. Like I said, I'm rooting for them.

    CCH Pounder appeared as a judge. It feels like she's appeared on every series as a judge at some point, and she never disappoints.

    There were a few key scenes that - to me - had a feeling of wrapping up, to a degree, plots begun in the Pilot. The reading of Chaney's will gave a form of closure to Georgia. She got a large inheritance and - having been fired by Brackman - got to punch him out for unleashing a barrage of insults at her. Not only was it a cathartic moment, it was incredibly funny. Alan Rachins did a truly brilliant comic fall - a kind of slow roll backwards where he was literally arse over tit; his feet somewhere above his head and his face looking furiously out from between his thighs. At least that's the way I remember it.

    Mario Van Peebles' character, Andrew, made his exit. Now, it's not uncommon for an actor in a TV pilot not to be part of the ongoing series. Whether it's because the actor is unavailable or the character is deemed unnecessary. I'm sure there are all kinds of reasons, and I'm not sure what the case with Van Peebles is (perhaps he couldn't do the series as he was dashing off to film Jaws The Revenge, in which case one has to wonder if he'd have stuck around longer with the benefit of hindsight). What sets this particular example apart is that Van Peebles gets some closure here. His character doesn't just disappear or get briefly mentioned in a line of dialogue. He gets a proper exit. And not only that, before he goes his arc allows for some exploration of racial politics as he feels Victor is his replacement in a show of ethnic tokenism. So the tension that was evident in the Pilot comes to fruition here, as Andrew both befriends and warns Victor. His parting shot as he leaves - directed at Michael, but really a criticism of the whole firm - is tantalisingly bitter. I was left wanting more.
     
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  3. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    THE HOUSE OF THE RISING FLAN

    It's pronounced "flahrn" in the episode, which - like the American pronunciation of pasta - sounds rather posh to my ears. The title comes from Victor's visit to the Brackman's where Douglas Jr. tries to marry him off to their Hispanic maid. It's all very distasteful, of course. I was suprised how long it took Victor to twig what Brackman's motives were.

    There have been scenes in the first two regular episodes of Brackman feeding live goldfish to the larger fish in his aquarium. It's a nice metaphor for the profession (though unnecessarily hammered home with supporting dialogue in this episode). Cruel as it is, it shows a pleasingly sadistic streak to his character.

    Abby's son was kidnapped by her soon-to-be ex-husband, causing her to momentarily stop smiling. I wonder how long this development will last.

    Oh lord. Judy Landers in that pop video. Everyone's faces in trying to find the appropriate reaction was a nice little moment.

    The evil, money-grabbing Dad in this episode was played by Michael Horton who I know best as Jessica Fletcher's wholesome nephew Grady in Murder, She Wrote. That association worked well here as the character started off appearing more virtuous than he was.
     
  4. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    THE PRINCESS AND THE WIENER KING

    If there's a theme running through a couple of storylines this episode it's simply this: money can't buy happiness. That line of reasoning typifies a great deal of eighties TV where most of the prime time soaps were about seeing rich people suffer. Even though we're now in late '86, it still feels fresh here because of the way it's presented.

    It's established in the cold opening where Leland speaks to a class full of hopeful future legal eagles who - to his dismay - only want to ask about salary and other matters remunerative.

    The clearest example of this theme within the main story comes from Judy Landers and Bill Macy's titular characters Irving and Dinitra Lewis. Dinitra has fled her rich older husband to shack up with a younger, and presumably hotter, man.

    "You think if you treat her like a princess, you hand over the cookie jar, she'll be devoted to you", Arnie observes to the despondent millionaire. "You're gonna have to shut down the gravy train. Otherwise she's got your money, and she's got the guy. There's nothing to motivate her."

    But money, it turns out, isn't what motivates her any more. As she tells him once he's tracked her down to a club and finds her earning her own money by proffering her wares dancing on top of a bar. "I need to find out who I am - and I can't do it living in your fantasy world."

    This couple's final scene together, parting ways, was unexpectedly poignant. The temptation to judge this couple is strong. The gold digger and the old fool. She got what she needed and is putting on an act to let him down gently. Whether or not that is true is impossible to say. Internal motives aren't explored. Taken on face value, though, it's clear that Irving finds the prospect of life without his princess a gloomy one. While Dinitra reveals that she's let go of her young lover and wants to find herself. She even goes so far as to destroy a cheque he hands over to her once he has left the room. In a small way, there's something quite noble about this gesture. Impressing a lover with wealth also filters over into the main cast's personal storyline.

    "I thought I knew you. It's like all this time you had a secret life." Ann sighs as she looks around Stuart's grand Brentwood home. "Are you a bank robber on the side?"

    "I have a confession to make. I'm rich", Stuart awkwardly tells her, before asking Ann to move in with him. She looks briefly very tempted but gently turns down Stuart's proposition quite quickly - and sensibly too. Things are going well for the couple, but it's still very early days. Stuart tells Ann that he's never had anyone he wants to share this part of his life with before.

    Even this early on, the dynamics of this relationship are fairly clear: Ann - a divorcee - isn't keen to dive into another serious relationship but likes Stuart. Stuart is head over heels in love with Ann and finds it difficult to tone down, coming across as quite needy and giving Ann all the power in the relationship. Revealing his wealth feels in keeping with that. He's sharing himself with her, but as a viewer I can't help wondering if he is partly motivated by feeling he is not enough. The two share a lovely meal and a sweet little dance.

    They also had a great moment in the cold opening where they sneaked into the late Chaney's office for some covert tongue action. "If you don't give me a wet one right now, I'm going to be forced to use force", he warns her somewhat ungrammatically while pinning her against the door. Their snogging session is interrupted by a wave of giggles and they quickly realise that the office is crammed with a dozen interviewees for the position of Brackman's new housekeeper. The gag was set up well with Brackman instructing his secretary to move the candidates to somewhere out of the way. The direction also worked so I could believe that Ann and Stuart were too distracted to see the women as they entered the room. I look forward to these whimsical pre-credits sections, and this is the daftest, funnest one yet.

    The main courtroom procedural deals with incestuous child abuse. Victor represents a young girl has shot and killed her older brother who repeatedly raped her (Brackman objects to this pro bono case with characteristic greed and is shot down by Leland). In court, she is given a hard time when cross-examined by Adam Arkin, but he explains to Victor that he feels sure the boy had learned his behaviour from a culture which probably stemmed from the father. There are echoes of the previous episode's set up, where the father was shown to be underhanded. Once again, he's played a little broadly, with the audience conditioned into not liking him. The two best performances come from Carol Potter (Brandon and Brenda's mother from BH90201) as the mother in denial and Pierrette Grace as the girl on trial. Grace in particular is very engaging and gives a wonderfully nuanced performance that belies her young age.


    There's some stuff with Michael and Grace playing games. The obstacle here is her fiancé who Michael checks out, causing her to be angry at him. Then she comes to Michael's place late at night, ostensibly to apologise which naturally leads to them fighting a losing battle with their raging hormones. It's been done on pretty much every tv show ever and feels a little old here. I probably should get comfortable with it because I suspect this is going to go on a while.
     
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  5. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    SIMIAN CHANTED EVENING

    The tension about who is going to be made partner leads to a cute little Stuart scene where, encouraged by Ann, he awkwardly tries to let Leland know he wants to be considered seriously for the position. "Is that a threat?", asks Leland when Stuart reminds him of an important client that may choose to leave with him, and Stuart hesitantly admits that it is.

    Whatever he did worked, as both Stuart and Ann are made partners this episode.

    The freeze-dry case was one of the more interesting cases so far, with lots of unnecessarily graphic but fascinating information about the process of freeze-drying a human body and discussion of the peculiarity of funeral rituals in society generally. Once again, the denouement was very poignant as the dying man fighting for his right to be freeze-dried was forced to face up to his difficulty in accepting his mortality thanks to the sensitivity and people skills of a judge.

    Things get soapy when Michael dons a gorilla costume to interrupt Grace's wedding and sweep her away with him. Grace and Michael's manufactured imbruglios are taking up a lot of screen-time, and it seems to be the law that they get the final scene in each episode. The kindest thing I can say is that it's doing little for me.
     
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  6. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    SLUM ENCHANTED EVENING

    Grace's wedding fallout gets some closure as she speaks to Kevin and admits how selfish she has been. Suffice to say she's moving on with Michael and they get the final lip-locking fadeout for the fifth episode in a row.

    The breast cancer courtroom procedural proved fairly interesting too. The scenario is used to convey some of the information that had previously been issued in Cagney & Lacey - most notably that the then-new lumpectomy procedure was a possible alternative to mastectomy. Priscilla Pointer was the judge, looking as regal as ever with her silvery hair.

    Mario Van Peebles is back as Andrew Taylor, challenging Brackman's slum landlord setup by kidnapping him and forcing him to look round his own tenement.

    There's a drug bust in the office with one of the young juniors dealing cocaine.
     
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  7. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    RAIDERS OF THE LOST BARK

    I'm loving the episode titles!! And the little dog at the centre of a case was so cute.

    Priscilla Pointer is back as Judge Pehlman. In other judge news, Michael Fairman debuts his recurring character Judge McGrath. Fairman is still etched in my memory from his memorable recurring turn in Cagney & Lacey as DI Knelman. Here, as there, he has great screen presence.

    The twist in the story of the journalist fired for baring her breasts on TV as part of a feature on her breast cancer was a nice one that I didn't see coming. When Kuzak was urging her to settle I was willing her to stand by her principles and press on and very glad when she did. Then came the twist that she had a book deal that was dependent upon the case going to jury. So she was doing it for the cash. It was both sickening and brilliant, and having been invested in some of the passionate arguments made by Michael and the opposition I was fully able to get a sense of his disappointment.

    Susan Dey didn't appear in the entire episode and then got wheeled in for the last thirty seconds. Because every episode has to end with Grace and Michael slobbering over one another. :rolleyes:
     
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  8. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    GIBBON TAKE

    It took me ages to get this title. Now I feel quite silly.

    Nice to see Kevin get his revenge on Grace by publicly revealing all about her abandoning her wedding with an ape. It took an unexpected turn when someone in an ape suit showed up at her office. I was sure it wasn't going to be Michael, but I'd decided it must be Kevin - especially when Grace was telling the ape how she was over Kevin and loved Michael. Instead it was a kid that Michael had ordered as a "cute" little gag.

    Speaking of cutesy stuff: Couples who cuten each others' names is so vomit-inducing. Please stop with the "Gracie" and "Mikey". Please.

    Michael asking Grace if she tweaks her eyebrows into that shape. Was this designed to be ironic? The scene drew my attention not only to how ordinary-looking Susan Dey's eyebrows are, but how very bizarre Harry Hamlins are. Now I can't stop looking at them and they're freaking me out by looking right back:

    [​IMG]

    Abby got all angry and shrill because of a couple fighting over their child, but no more interesting.

    Dean Devlin is great as smug little drug dealer Jeffrey. He's so irritating, and then he smiles and I think I want to put him in my pocket.
     
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  9. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    THE VENUS BUTTERFLY

    Finally. An episode that has really clicked with me.

    The pre-credits sequence was daft fun: Arnie, Stuart and Ann arguing over who gets Cheney's office - with a deciding game of "one potato, two potato...". It shouldn't have worked, but it did.

    The main procedural with the man killing his partner who was dying of AIDS is the most gripping courtroom scenario yet and brought out good colours in all concerned.

    Stanley Kamel as the defence lawyer was great. His recurring Cagney & Lacey appearances are still resonating with me. This would have been filmed amidst them all and it's impressive to see how different he is here as the non-stereotypically gay man. IMDb shows this isn't a one-off appearance, which I'm glad about.

    Peter Frechette as Christopher, the man on trial who also has full-blown AIDS, is a complete gem here. The character, the storyline and the performance made for a heart-rending combination. He looked so vulnerable and broken. He had the episode's most powerful scene as he described the day his partner died. By the time he was crying in the dock my heart had broken a little. I recognised his name and couldn't place from where. It was a shock to look on IMDb and realise I knew him from Grease 2. Who'd have thought?

    The storyline also gave Susan Dey her best work to date and showed a very attractive, compassionate side to Grace as she wrestled with the reality of prosecuting someone who she would prefer not to. The arguments given by both Grace and Mark were very compelling, and I was starting to wonder what conclusion I would be coming to as a juror. It was interesting to see the juror recruitment process too.

    The polygamy story was fascinating too, and led into one of the series' most infamous plot devices: the Venus Butterfly (and yes - I did hit Google and saw some information I wish I could unsee). It was cheeky fun, and the best part was that Stuart's successful use of the practice led to he and Ann getting the end-of-episode fadeout, which is definitely progress.

    Abby finally got a meaty storyline when the body of a child matching her missing son's description showed up, so beginning a chase from hospital to morgue and back again only to discover - after almost an entire episode - that the body had been erroneously cremated meaning that she may never know for sure. It enriched the so far quite anaemic storyline a great deal. For the first time, I got a sense of what it's like to feel Abby's concern. We got a scene where Abby got to give it to the administrator who broke the bad news, which was greatly helped by the silent presence of Jill Eikenberry and Felton Perry.
     
  10. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    FRY ME TO THE MOON

    The cold start grabbed the attention: a black and white sequence sees an execution by electric chair. Michael is in the observation area, but then he becomes every person involved. So we see Michael strapping himself into the chair, reading himself the last rites and throwing the switch. All witnessed by himself, helplessly watching it play out.

    Naturally, as the switch is thrown we cut to him waking up from the nightmare, comforted by Grace (no doubt to make up for the fact that the previous episode did not end with these two making goo goo eyes at each other). The whole setup is a huge cliché. It was probably so at the time, but the cinematic air feels light years ahead of pretty much anything on TV at the time. It's easy to understand why L.A. Law caught the public's imagination almost immediately.

    Michael's nightmare, of course, is related to a case he's working on where he's freeing a convicted rapist/double-murderer from death row on a technicality: his arrest didn't follow due process. It's another interesting look at the moral dilemmas faced and the lengths one must go to in order to uphold the "innocent until proven guilty" aspect of the law. Michael has mixed feelings. He feels responsible for putting a dangerous man back onto the street. At the same time, he though he knows it's the right thing to do as a lawyer and - as someone who opposes capital punishment - he also feels good about saving any life. It's one of those no-win situations. If he succeeded (which he did), someone else could get killed. If hadn't succeeded someone would have been killed.

    Michael's attitude towards the death penalty seems to be in the minority amongst his colleagues. The issue isn't hammered home. There is a short but lively discussion in the board room where it feels like almost everyone in the room barring Michael loudly rebuffs his viewpoint (Michael's was one of the louder voices, which surprised me). Part of me wanted to get into that meaty discussion and hear people's reasons. As someone who shares Michael's viewpoint that taking a life lessens those involved I'm half-fascinated by people's reasons for being in favour. As it was, the only retort that I recall was someone suggesting that Michael's viewpoint would be different if the person who was raped and killed was someone he knew. Appropriately for this series, the difference of opinion amongst these professionals was treated as just that.

    Things are taken to the next level when the released convict holds up a store and is shot and killed. He'd been followed by a number of armed police hoping he'd give them an excuse to carry out what amounts to an extrajudicial execution, proving Michael's point.

    In other cases, Stanley Kamel and Peter Frechette are back from the previous episode to continue the story of Christopher. This time round, Grace provides Kamel's character, Mark Gilliam, with research on AIDS that could prevent - or at least postpone - Christopher's imprisonment. The suggestion is that Mark hadn't done his job well and Grace has done it for him. When Mark points out that the material will most likely be waived as it didn't appear earlier, Grace reminds him that there is another way. This proves quite tantalising. Mark clearly understood what she meant, but as a viewer I wasn't let into that knowledge. Instead, I had to wait and see what happened next. After the material was indeed waived, Mark announced that Grace had provided the material, which gets the result they'd hoped for.

    It's an interesting character arc for Grace. On the one hand we see her at her most heroic. At the same time, the way things needed to be played ensured that she was very publicly shown to be heroic, in the process boosting her reputation at the expense of Mark's. There's a sense that at the heart of it is her genuine care for Christopher's plight, but the almost ruthless way it played out meant that Grace kept enough edge to prevent it feeling syrupy.

    Things are back to normality with the episode ending which - like the opening - features Grace and Michael in a state of undress together. This time they're in the shower. Just in case anyone's keeping notes of all these variations on a rather irritating theme.

    The Venus Butterfly resonates into this episode from the last one with Ann drawing a picture of (mercifully) an actual butterfly during a board meeting and handing it to Stuart who mouths that he loves her. The continuity is appreciated.

    Arnie's enjoyably bickering parents are introduced, along with a fun running gag where Roxanne keeps finding him banging his own head against his desk.

    Abby brings a stray dog to work (Ooh. Her son is missing. It's, like, a substitute :rolleyes:). When her colleagues dare to suggest that a dog eating files, peeing on desks and barking through meetings might not be the most appropriate thing to bring to the office Abby gets all shrill and victimy. She all but says that she can do what she like because her son is missing. As a character she's just not working for me. I'm seeing a lot of her responses to situations but very little character. It's like the writers didn't know what to do with her so they just keep throwing stuff at her hoping something will stick.

    Schlock the dog story may be for the most part, but it's not without its charm by episode's end. The saving grace in this case is that Abby, having left it tied up alone in her office for several hours(!) returns to find it ensconced in Brackman's office. He's fallen in love with the mutt, spent some time chatting to him and wants to keep him. It's a sweet moment for his character, and reminded me that we've seen too little of him these past few episodes.
     
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  11. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    EL SID

    Ok - I really did feel for Abby in this episode with her husband returning, blackmailing her into dropping the charges against him and evidently having poisoned Eric's mind against Abby. The reunion scene between Abby and her long-lost son gave me the biggest shock of the episode when he came up to her as though to embrace and then started physically assaulting her.

    Some unpleasant colours in Ann this episode. She spent half the episode fuming in passive aggression at Stuart for getting Chaney's old office. It was all most ungracious. Then she changed her tune when Stuart revealed he'd decorated the office for her to have it as a Christmas present (after a minute or so of pretending not to want it so that Stuart would insist on her having it). I quite enjoyed seeing this waspish side to her.
     
  12. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    SIDNEY, THE DEAD-NOSED REINDEER

    Oh - poor Sid. He's been a fascinating ride the past few episodes. Punching a client on the stand; getting held in contempt; ending up on a psychiatric ward; kicking off at Michael in a coffee shop and putting his lunch on his own head and finally inviting Michael to watch him eat his gun in the courtroom. I have a soft spot for underdogs that the mainstream don't understand, and Sid certainly ticks that box. He's been like L.A. Law's very own Richard Avery, with some very similar stops along the way.

    The terribly British inventor of the tea bag squeezer was charming. Though he wasn't quite British enough for my taste. An upper class, old money Brit would never in a million years use the pronunciation "skedule". Still - I forgave him. The story itself took a turn into Ann going through the contents of a rubbish bag and discovering the opposition's fetish for corporal punishment involving stilettos which was then used to blackmail a result, which again showed another fun side to Ann.

    It's always interesting to see how a show does Christmas. L.A. Law eased us into it, with some hints about the season and The Christmas Song discreetly playing on a piano in a restaurant scene before hitting us with the office party scene. The briefcase that Leland bought for Iris is gorgeous. I crave it.

    Arnie really is a sleaze. But loveably so. And pretty predictable too - as soon as his client (a divorce case) was talking about his wife's sexual appetite it was obvious how it was going to end. The fun was in seeing how it got there.

    Jim allowing Eric to stay with Abby over Christmas was, on paper, a sweet touch. The simple mother/son reconnection - Eric hugging Abby after some deliberation was nice enough. But somehow it felt like it missed something. After all these months I wanted it explored a little more.

    Damita Jo Freeman has been just wonderful in her small-but-key role as a young mother whose young daughter was shot dead by police during a raid. In each of her scenes I feel very connected to her. I hope we see some more of her.
     
  13. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    PRINCE KUZAK IN THE CAN

    Dan Lauria - best remembered to me as the Dad from The Wonder Years - shows up in this one. He's fresh in my mind from a terrific recurring turn in Cagney & Lacey as Mary Beth's nemesis-with-a-secret-crush. I do enjoy watching him. Here - in between C&L appearances - he's Joseph Sears, a moustachioed hit and run driver defended by Kuzak.

    After watching the episode it occurred to me that the footage of the hit and run captured on home video and shown to the court was a great example of the thoroughness of detail in this show. I believed it was something that was accidentally caught while filming something else. The reason I didn't give it much thought while watching is that it's so much like people's mobile phone footage that shows up on the news these days, showing that L.A. Law was ahead of the curve. To give it authenticity, this footage would have required location work with a good number of extras and a stunt crew. All so it could be shown for a few seconds on a flickering TV screen to add a reality to the proceedings. Very impressive indeed.

    Sears asking his ailing old aunt to lie on the stand was the catalyst for Kuzak publicly withdrawing from the case and ending up in the nick in contempt. It was well written enough for me to be on Michael's side, but overall Michael losing the plot in the wake of witnessing Sid's suicide had the air of one of those "dark side" plot devices that are introduced to try to make an uninteresting character more interesting. Dynasty had "Dark Krystle" in Season Nine; Dallas had "Reckless Ray" after Jock's death and they both worked for their respective shows. Unfortunately, Michael's descent kept reminding me of "Badass Billy" in Season Four Melrose. Or to put it another way, I didn't really care. Not even when he revealed that he felt he was possessed by Sid's spirit (how very Twin Peaks. Except this preceded that show by quite some years). Naturally, Susan Dey showed up as a prison visitor in the last scene for the now obligatory "Oh Gracie/Oh Mickey" fadeout (the "twist" here being that they were both fully clothed and had to keep their hands to themselves).

    Arnie's story to Roxanne about losing his virginity to an older woman as an overweight, shy, spotty teenager was riveting. Especially as it was told to encourage Roxanne to have sex with the young geek with a crush on her. I wonder if she will.
     
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  14. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    THE DOUGLAS FUR BALL

    Strained relationships are the order of the day. Brackman's wife files for divorce while Arnie, representing Brackman, is more intent on arguing with Sheila Brackman's attorney - an ex-colleague with whom he had a fling and then fired. The scenes involving the Brackmans (Brackmen? :D ) are fun and engaging. Sarah Abrell as Lisa has a whiny voice that grates, so the scenes between she and Arnie that were there to add depth to the storyline failed for me.

    Stuart stalking Ann, jealous that a client is attracted to her (a sentiment she coyly echoes) was a nice twist. Somehow the hurdles in their relationship don't feel at all forced. At one point, Ann made an observation about how quickly things are moving for them - going from friendship to courtship to domesticity in a short space of time - is freaking her out. It felt very truthful, and also provided an interesting unspoken contrast between their relationship and that of Grace and Mike who got together about the same time Stuart and Ann did. Grace and Mike (sorry - "Gracie" and "Mickey" :rolleyes:) have a more youthful, blinkered, live for today kind of thing going on, while Stuart and Ann seem to be establishing their boundaries through experience. Even if I hadn't watched the show before there's a sense that Stuart and Ann - as challenging as their different attitudes are - seem set for the long haul while Grace and Mike are heading for burn out.

    The testy friendship between Leland and Judge Hood was a nice watch. I enjoyed seeing some more of Leland and there being a couple of - for want of a better term - senior moments between these two old hands. Hood testing their friendship first by imprisoning Michael, then by asking Leland for a position at the firm and finally by getting arrested for taking a bribe felt a little unexpected. Even more unexpected, Dey and Hamlin didn't get the final fade-out. Could this be the start of some balance in the show? Let's hope so.

    Victor accusing another judge of bigotry based on his statistics was another interesting watch. The judge's genuine concern that Victor could be right, and his pointing out Victor's client group stats based on race gave both Vic and the viewer food for thought about discrimination being a two-way street. I like a plot that makes me think.
     
  15. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    DECEMBER BRIBE

    The potential merger felt quite episodic: a very temporary thread to the status quo that polarised the main players and was quickly resolved. It was apparent to me that this was the case around the time the one dimensional efficiency experts swarmed around the offices threatening to put up cubicles with smoked glass to ensure the officer workers weren't able to personalise their workspace. And indeed, before the final act all was back to normal. So the merger was pretty much a MacGuffin, but the conflict created by the vote proved interesting enough to make it worth it. I particularly enjoyed the confrontation between Stuart and Ann where he marched into her office behind her and slammed the door, feeling certain that she had voted to merge (which she had).

    Now that the missing son storyline is over with, I'm getting the character of Abby more. It seems it was the storyline that wasn't working. Michele Greene may not have been able to convincingly dive into a dramatic, emotional story this early in the run (and I still feel it was too early for that ongoing storyline without the character being established), but she is perfectly fine as the sweet, slightly nervous junior member of the team. This episode plays to those strengths by following Abby's first court appearance where mean old Judge McGrath pulls her to pieces for her inexperience. Greene does awkward well and allowed me to empathise with Abby during that, helped no end by the gravitas of Michael Fairman. Adding fuel to that fire, Abby felt the opposing counsel had scored points at her expense. And when he comes to visit her it's to ask her on a date. Another enjoyable angle of Abby's arc this episode has been the support given her by Victor. It makes perfect sense, with Victor's speciality being the support of the underdog, and there's a lot of warmth between these two, even in group scenes where they exchange smiles.
     
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  16. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    BEEF JERKY

    When the stolen bull semen storyline was introduced, I wasn't sure how much mileage they could get out of it. It turned out to be one of the best vehicles for the quirky humour of the show. Like Venus Butterfly, the slightly risqué subject allowed for much ribald dialogue and descriptions that seem more graphic than they actually are. The viewer is left to fill in the blanks (no pun intended) without feeling this is the case. We get jokey scenes of Ann asking (as "a city girl") just how lucky the cows are through to courtroom scenes filled with lighthearted dialogue. For example:


    GRACE: "Now, Professor L'Hommedieu, could you please describe for the court the manner in which these sperm samples are collected?"

    PROF. L'HOMMEDIEU: "Well, the first of the two methods is electro-ejaculation. However that's rather an aversive experience for the animal, and the far more common technique is to..."

    ATTORNEY: "Objection to the question, your honour... The manner in which the bull... expresses himself is of no relevance whatsoever."

    PROF. L'HOMMEDIEU: "Tell that to the bull."

    GRACE: "Your honour, it's imperative that the jury understands the intricate process involved here."

    ATTORNEY: "Come on, we all know how it works."

    GRACE: "It's not that simple, judge. They don't just send the bull behind the hayloft with a magazine and a baggie."

    [The jury chortles]

    JUDGE SCHROEDER: "Ms. Van Owen...! Look, I'll let him briefly describe it, but keep it short."

    PROF. L'HOMMEDIEU: "Certainly. The bull is led from the pen into a collection area. If he's an experienced animal, he knows what's coming. So he's already in a state of excitation..."

    [There are awkward murmurs]

    GRACE: "What happens next?"

    PROF. L'HOMMEDIEU: "By this time, a technician has tethered a stimulus. Oh, I should add that, uh, most of the time, a male stimulus is used to prevent accidental intramission."

    GRACE: "You mean the bull will engage with another male?"

    PROF. L'HOMMEDIEU: "A sexually naive animal, no. But a mature bull will mount almost anything."

    [Restrained chuckling breaks out]

    PROF. L'HOMMEDIEU: "After the bull mounts, the animal technician takes hold of his..." [He turns to Judge Schroeder] "Can I say the 'P' word?"

    JUDGE SCHROEDER: "Just continue." [Schroeder holds a hand to his mouth]

    PROF. L'HOMMEDIEU: "He takes hold of the member and inserts it into an artificial..." [He turns to Judge Schroeder again] "Can I say the 'V' word?"

    JUDGE SCHROEDER: "Counsel... in my chambers. Right now."

    [Judge Schroeder enters his chambers and Grace and the Defence Attorney join him. The door is closed and all three laugh hysterically]


    While the subject matter does feel like the writers thought of the most way out thing they could come up with, it does work here. Not only does it provide a great deal of laughs through the episode, Grace's closing argument actually adds some substance to the proceedings by reminding the jury - and the viewer - that while it may not be a murder case, a law has been broken and people have been hurt in the process. This validates what could have been a disposable story and honours the audience by recognising that the time spent watching it has served a purpose. It's almost the opposite of the approach to the merger storyline in the previous episode.

    The story has proved a good vehicle for Grace. The least enjoyable aspect of this season has been Grace and Michael's romance. This episode reminded me just why I haven't enjoyed it. Her scenes at home with Michael quite one-note and predictable. Reductive almost. Both characters feel like concessionary romantic leads. Symbiotes who need each other to survive. I believe their relationship and don't mind some lovey-dovey stuff in moderation. But 90% of Grace's scenes this first season seem to have been with Michael, talking over his latest case while straddling him, towelling him dry after a shower or lying on the sofa with him.

    On paper, Grace could be perhaps the strongest woman on the show: confident, capable and career-minded. In many ways she's carrying the flame in that late-Eighties period of quiet between second and third wave feminism. But then she's given a thankless almost supporting role as someone who gets wheeled in to help Michael unwind at the end of every episode. Her main arc this season has been ending one relationship and getting into another. And even then, she needed to be "rescued" by Michael. It wasn't a choice she made.

    Seeing Susan Dey flying solo - taking this case and make it both funny and meaningful - shows what an asset she could be to this show and just how diminished she is in the writers over-pushing "Gracie" and "Mickey" as the show's power couple. Her character hasn't been properly serviced at all so far. And it's taken bull seed to show that.


    Like Venus Butterfly, Beef Jerky works so well because the lighter episode is balanced with a far more serious trial - that of the family of a boy who was killed in a car accident who are seeking restitution. A strength of the storyline is that it addresses head-on how tasteless the concept placing a financial value on human life is. To their credit, all the family come across very well. Kim Myers as the sister of the boy is just great, but I got very distracted by her physical likeness to a young Meryl Streep. It's absolutely uncanny.

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    A couple of familiar names in the post-credits turned out to be involved in the same story. Sheryl Lee Ralph - the original Deena Jones - appeared as a sexy private investigator for Arnie. She was great, and I hope she appears again.

    She was taking photographs of a cheating plastic surgeon, whose wife Carolyn was a client of Arnie. The wife was played by Patricia Wettig - who would be playing Nancy on thirtysomething by the following season (I really need to re-watch that show in full very soon). Her role here was fairly low key to begin with. She was clearly very edgy, nervous and tightly wound and very much in denial - she kept saying she didn't want to know any details, but just to give her husband what he asked for. It came to a satisfying head after Arnie - not one to shy away from a battle - showed her the video of her cheating husband, resulting in Carolyn firing a gun at her husband in the offices (a moment both melodramatic and funny as the TV exploded and everyone dived for cover).
     
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  17. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    BECKER ON THE ROX

    As soon as the name "Mr Stulwicz" was mentioned, I knew exactly who they were talking about. Benny makes his debut in this episode. Knowing how things work out in the longer term, it's interesting to see his appearance here, which is as just another one-off client of Abby's. His story has some heart, so it's easy to understand why he made an impression.

    Arnie and Roxanne's relationship is proving interesting. I still haven't got them worked out. Do they fancy each other? Or does Roxanne lust after Arnie and he's using that to his advantage? Or are they just colleagues who have no sense of boundaries? Whatever the case, things getting heated between them over Roxanne's request for a pay rise. While these two usually skate along the surface, when they go deep it's very effective. Their angry conversations felt very real and for the first time these two were the most watchable aspect of the episode.

    Ann being shown to be unmanageable with her taxes took a little suspension of disbelief. But it served the storyline and moved things along with Stuart and Ann moving in together.

    The pharmaceutical law suit went over my head a little. Not the case itself, but the mock trial that was held was almost like stepping into another show. It gave Victor and Michael the chance to show off some slick legal moves though.
     
  18. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    FIFTY WAYS TO FLOSS YOUR LOVER

    Another death penalty dialogue in this episode. This time it's Grace fighting hard to put to death someone who is already serving a number of life sentences, which results in him threatening her life. I was a little surprised that Michael's anti death penalty stance wasn't explored. It could have made for an interesting angle of their relationship. Truthfully, though, I suspect it would have been peppered in amongst some more of their billing and cooing, so perhaps it worked out for the best.

    Grace fearing for her life - while nowhere as compelling as a similar scenario in the Cagney & Lacey episode Stress - gave the opportunity to explore the issue of handguns. Grace being comfortable with the death penalty and uncomfortable with carrying a handgun seemed a little contradictory. Which made it more fascinating to watch. The shooting of Grace played out quite well. It felt very real-time and a little disorientating.

    Arnie's temporary assistant turning out to be a lesbian was played well. The show gets credit for playing against stereotypes (perhaps that was only necessitated by the reveal needing to be a surprise and the woman someone Arnie would lust after, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.

    The wacky dentist Victor represented and then dated - brushing his teeth as foreplay and stopping their sexual activity to get a food particle. Just yikes. Holding up a piece of used dental floss on camera is the most disgusting thing I've seen on the show yet.

    I really want to know what happened to the poor woman who thought the dentist had placed a radio transmitter in her mouth. It was mostly played for laughs, which somehow made it even more poignant.
     
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  19. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Having watched seven more episodes without posting anything here, I feel like a naughty student who's forgotten to do his homework.

    Here are a few bullet points on the end of Season One:

    • Brackman getting a toupee was probably not as funny as intended, though nicely quirky. Maybe I'm thinking too deeply, but the general message seemed to be that balding men are figures of fun whether they try to do anything about it or not. Somehow I don't believe a balding woman wearing a wig would have received such ridicule from the characters or the writers.
    • Stuart and Ann's disastrous camping trip was pure, OTT fun. Jill Eikenberry was a trooper with Ann's loss of dignity, first having to use a leaf because there was no toilet paper and then having a reaction to the leaf itself and walking like John Wayne for the rest of the trip. It looked like she was hiding her corpsing by wincing or hiding her face. It irritated me no end whenever Courteney Cox did it on Friends, but then she was being paid silly money specifically to do comedy. I found it quite endearing here.
    • Gosh - a disastrous camping trip and then a wacky Las Vegas wedding chapel. Stuart and Ann's whirlwind romance has shades of Karen and Mack.
    • And Leland had haemorrhoids. Oh - the indignity. The writers clearly aren't worried about too much information.
    • The acquaintance rape case with the footballer still felt very relevant. Ched Evans came to mind.
    • Sparky's death gave Brackman a bit more screen-time, which was good. Poor little dog. His second appearance and he gets killed off.
    • The woman jealous of her husband's prize sow which she accused him of having sex with. What can one say to that?
     
  20. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Season Two

    [​IMG]


    The first few episodes...

    • I find new season opening credits far more exciting than perhaps I ought. That boot lid slamming with the updated year on the plate felt like it brought in the new with a literal bang. As I recall they updated it every year.
    • Blair Underwood has joined the cast. He's really familiar. I was convinced I'd watched him in something quite recently, but looking at his filmography I think he's familiar from my previous experiences with LA Law. Which is a little odd, because I don't consciously remember his character.
    • Ray Abruzzo was in the cast for the first few episodes. I suppose he's leaving now that his character didn't pass the bar. I'm still undecided if I loved or hated the hints about him having to go into the family business and all his talk about death, with Abby (and the viewer) assuming he was talking about the mafia. The twist that he was talking about his heritage of family members being shot from cannons played nicely against expectations by using a stereotype against both characters and audience.
    • Victor's battle of wills with Hamilton Schuyler, the British lawyer, was amusing. The adversary being a little person gave another opportunity to explore how people's own prejudices - and the guilt over it - can be used against them. Here Hamilton used it to influence the jury and get away with such stunts as starting a fire in the courtroom to prove a point. Victor and Hamilton's respect for each other shone through at the end of it.
    • Benny is back and quite enjoyable so far.
    • Abby's character feels like she's been beefed-up a bit this season. She's not quite so meek and sweet.
     

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