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

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

  1. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator EXP: 11 Years Staff Member

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    BRACKMAN VASEKTIMIZED

    Brackman's Judge Judy-esque small claims court usually amuses me. And he's found his very own Bert in the form of Rhonda - the security guard lusting after him. His face was a picture when she came to his chambers and virtually threw herself at him, thanking him for having the strength not to throw her on the desk and have his way with him. There's good comedy chemistry here, and I hope the writers run with it.

    There are some great moral dilemmas for Ann in recent episodes which are propelling her into the forefront of my most watchable characters. First she had the client who admitted to murdering his patient, knowing she wouldn't be able to tell anyone which she got around.

    This episode has a contaminated water storyline reminiscent of Erin Brockovich (except preceding that actual case coming to light by quite some years). Ann is horrified to discover that the people responsible (represented here by Lionel Lockridge from Santa Barbara, playing his usual JR Ewing type slimeball) have worked out through a cost benefit analysis that, rather than clean it up, it will cost them less to pay off lawsuits resulting from the deaths and deformities that will continue to be caused. On this level, I couldn't help wondering if the storyline was influenced by Ford's infamous Pinto Memo. Ann is rather marvellous as she swings into action, threatening to break the story to the press unless the water is cleaned-up. Furthermore, she announces she has quit the firm so a lawsuit would serve no purpose. In other words, she's broken the law to blackmail her client into doing the right thing. True to her word, she actually does hand in her notice, which is duly torn up by Leland. The episode gives Jill Eikenberry some great moments as Ann whoops butt.

    A nice degree of conflict came along as Abby found out that Jonathan was earning far more than she or Victor. I enjoyed seeing the self-preservation aspect. Abby wanted to speak to Leland with Victor to have strength in numbers, but Victor chose to speak to Leland alone (which Abby took as a snub). And he got in before Abby. This episode gave us the most insight into the hierarchical structure of the agency, with a partners' meeting of Leland, Ann, Stuart, Arnie, Michael and Brackman to discuss it. Again, Brackman's ruthlessness frankly said what everyone else was probably thinking when - after everyone voted to give Victor his pay rise - he commented that Abby was expendable.

    This rippled out to create further conflict when Ann tried to gently warn Abby not to ask for more money. The conversation escalated and ended with Ann essentially saying that Abby wasn't dynamic enough and needed to up her game. While she ultimately ended up in a victim-y "I can't afford to lose my job" stance, there was some fire to her in this episode coming out of the conflict with Victor and Ann.
     
  2. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator EXP: 11 Years Staff Member

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    THE BROTHERS GRIMM

    A couple of very soapy twists the last couple of episodes. There's the revelation that Michael was previously married and that he walked out on his first wife after treating her badly. Then there's Brackman's long-lost half brother.

    The former storyline - like most of the "Mickey" and "Gracie" stuff - feels mostly generic and bland. In the immediate aftermath of the revelation, Michael has a really nice moment where he discloses to Grace his shame about the way he treated his wife. But overall it's just another storyline where these two operate in a vacuum that has little to do with the rest of the show. The more I watch, the more I feel that Susan Dey is rather wasted on this show. Her character has moments of greatness. In the courtroom she's electric. But at home with Michael, Grace is reduced to hand-wringing insecurity. While I like the realism that not everyone's lives are interwoven, I really feel Grace would benefit from having more interaction with others in the main cast. Outside of Harry Hamlin, her other big scene this episode came in a scene straight out of daytime soap where she had lunch with the other woman in order for them to take the measure of each other. Needless to say it failed the Bechdel test.

    The Brackman story was entertaining enough, functioning as one of the lighter storylines here. Particularly as it emerged that Leland had known of Brackman Sr's indiscretion all these years. I particularly enjoyed the visual of the two half brothers meeting each other where they're physically very different indeed in terms of height but have similar faces and the same hairstyle.

    Benny's mother dying was very poignant. Larry Drake was wonderful and Arnie being with Benny showed a softer side to his character too. It was a really nice touch that, even though she had died off-screen, Lesley Woods appeared as Mrs Stulwicz in the scene where Benny and Arnie went to her hospital room after she'd died.

    More conflict for Ann due to the pre-nuptial agreement Stuart asked her to sign. What was interesting was that she was fine with the pre-nup, happily signing it, and only flipped out after Stuart tore his up which essentially told her he'd been testing her to see if she'd sign. She even went so far as to insist hers remained on file. It was right in character for Stuart to do this, being insecure about whether Ann likes him for himself or his money. And right in character for Ann to be so incensed.

    The tension between Ann and Abby also bubbled over into this episode with their first encounter at the coffee maker being polite but frosty. Hats off to Abby for breaking the ice and thanking Ann for her truthfulness.

    The rape procedural explored the responsibilities of a police officer: an off duty officer had been present whilst a woman was raped in a bar and was being sued for not stepping in to prevent it. Ultimately, the statement seemed to be that the responsibilities weigh even more heavily on the officer as he ended up shooting himself after apologising to the victim.
     
  3. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator EXP: 11 Years Staff Member

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    AULD L'ANXIETY

    A mostly forgettable episode with a few little highlights. Rhonda and Brackman are turning out to be favourites of mine. They're so funny together and I always enjoy their scenes.

    Leland going back into the courtroom for the first time in years gave the opportunity to see him in a different light. The hearing aid was a little overkill, but worked fine even though I suspect it wasn't as funny in practice as on paper.

    Once again we got to see Ann's waspish side as she made Stuart suffer for arranging the pre-nup. It's not a good colour on her, but she actually came out of the storyline with more sympathy than Stuart who became a passive little lapdog, bringing her a series of expensive gifts that she rejected and he gave to a colleague. It got a little old quite quickly, but I appreciated seeing two very flawed characters trying to make a go of things.
     
  4. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator EXP: 11 Years Staff Member

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    ROHNER vs. GRADINGER

    Ann's bigoted mother arriving gave Stuart redemption for his passivity last episode. Here he got to throw over a display stand in one of his finest moments yet.

    It's good to see Abby getting a little more business this season. I'm still getting over her angsty shrillness in the first half of Season One and she, too, is being redeemed as a lawyer with good instincts and empathy. She's even now had her pay brought up to match Jonathan's.

    A great moment for Rhonda and Douglas as she barged into a meeting of the entire company to chew him out for treating her badly. It's very enjoyable to see him squirm in moments like these.
     
  5. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator EXP: 11 Years Staff Member

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    GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BARRISTERS

    Perhaps the most compelling Grace arc yet. Defending a teenage stripper who was sexually assaulted by three lawyers gave her a chance to rebel against the system (she was advised by a superior not to press ahead with it). She also rose to the challenge of defending someone against the might of authority figures. It felt very cathartic to see her scoring points and making watertight cases. Her closing argument is one of the finest Van Owen scenes. And it's no coincidence that for her most powerful moments there wasn't a Mickey in sight.

    The episode had also shown her response to a stripper showing up at the office - designed to embarrass her. Reinforced by a conversation Grace had with a female colleague that she wasn't doing their image any favours and they should try to be one of the boys, the battle between misogyny versus feminism was reminiscent of early Cagney & Lacey.

    Brackman's concerns about having contracted HIV from Rhonda was an interesting one. It gave the opportunity to relay some sexual health information to the viewer, but was done in a lighthearted way, being played for laughs at times.

    Arnie's crisis of confidence and wanting a deeper relationship had a nice undercurrent to it. It's good to see a more substantial side to him. His relationship with Benny is proving a good thing for both characters.
     
  6. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator EXP: 11 Years Staff Member

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    DIVORCE WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE

    Victor's new love interest, Lauren Sevilla has been different in each of these last three episodes. In the first, where she met Victor in a lift, I willing them to be together. By the time we got to this episode where she has killed her multi-millionaire husband before their divorce is final, she's kind of irritating.

    Another string to Abby's bow - we hear her speak Spanish quite fluently here.

    More insight into the way lawyers work. Grace was prosecuting a teenager who killed his abusive father, which was fairly run-of-the-mill. But after she successfully made a murder charge stick due to his lawyer's ego (the lawyer had rejected a bargain made by Grace earlier) Grace decided she was going to go to the sentencing and request the charges be reduced. It's not the first time Grace has done this and it's good to see this very human side to her. Naturally the episode ended with she and Michael exchanging "Gracie"s and "Mickey"s. Because you can't have everything.

    This episode had the Christmas party - complete with the Eurythmics' version of Winter Wonderland.
     
  7. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator EXP: 11 Years Staff Member

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    FULL MARITAL JACKET

    Both procedurals felt close to home this week with Benny in court accused of a sexual assault and Anthony Gianelli's family being sued when Anthony overshot after being fired from a cannon, hitting a spectator.

    The expected quirk was there in the case of The Flying Gianellis, with all of them arriving in wheelchairs and braces - the legacy of having taken part in the family business. Ray Abruzzo has been a nice watch as Anthony. He has a certain screen presence. It's easy to see why he would go on from this to Dynasty.

    Benny's vindication was more poignant than I was expecting.

    This episode featured the first L.A. Law wedding: Ann and Stuart, with Ann in a rather hideous old-fashioned bridal gown (off-white, sensibly). It was good to see some progress between Ann's mother and Stuart. I'd have been a bit annoyed if I'd attended their wedding where they got very indulgently self-obsessed, having a row and then making up while the ceremony was taking place. But it made for typically atypical viewing. I especially enjoyed the moment where Leland physically pushed his earlobe forward to try to hear what they were saying from his pew. Sheila Brackman seething negativity made me smile, too. She's great.
     
  8. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator EXP: 11 Years Staff Member

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    Another five episodes this week, with a whole lot of imbroglio going on.

    Roxanne got involved with a lawyer who gave her inside trading and got held in contempt for refusing to testify against him until his girlfriend persuaded her. Ann and Abby benefitted from the tip giving Roxanne the chance to whine about how poor she is.

    Benny has a girlfriend of whom he seems quite embarrassed. The word "retarded" has been used several times to refer to Benny, not only by his colleagues but also by Benny himself. I cringe every time I hear it. Was this an acceptable term in America during the Eighties? It certainly wasn't ok to say this in the UK, thankfully.

    Brackman's mother died and yet another half-brother has turned up. Both are pleasingly annoying which is casting Brackman himself in a much more sympathetic light.

    Jonathan and Abby hooked up briefly (after dancing on top of the boardroom tables to The Temptations). That's one good-looking couple.

    Grace was wooed by Danny Waleska to join a different firm, until the mobster she discovered was in partnership with them was gunned down while eating lunch with her, dying in the most bloody fashion (a scene they've got their money's worth out of by showing it in every résumé since).
     
  9. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator EXP: 11 Years Staff Member

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    I've now finished Season Two and moved on to Season Three.

    A few thoughts about the last episodes of S2:

    • I've thoroughly enjoyed Brackman's increasingly bizarre and OTT personal crises. It's fascinating how this formal and proper pedant lives in a hyper-real, almost cartoony world as soon as he steps outside the office. Getting involved with his father's old lover and becoming his half-brother's potential stepfather almost blew my mind. And yet at the same time, Brackman's relationship with Rusty is one of the most convincing and sweet on the show.
    • It seems everyone is becoming involved in soapy relationships. Leland in a May-December situation with his friend's daughter; Arnie with a judge and Roxanne with a millionaire. All are bringing out really interesting new colours in the characters in question.
    • The shotgun siege in the courtroom was rather gripping. I really got a sense of the life-and-death situation and how easily one person can overpower many.
    • The balance of light and dark is proving enjoyable. The Salamander case about a guy playing a superhero with an inflatable tail, climbing walls using suction cups should have been silly enough to dismiss, but it was too much fun.
    • James Earl Jones's appearance was great, and the subject matter it involved thought provoking. His character was a lawyer representing a jewel thief who had shot a security guard who tried to stop him. Jones's character introduced a theme of racism to suggest that his client was the target of discrimination (both lawyer and client being African American), which Grace realised was a trump card used - successfully - to play on the jury's own guilt and disguise the real facts of the case. There were definite parallels to the M.O. of Hamilton Schuyler, who used his diminutive size and the jury's awkwardness around it to his advantage at the top of the season. Both underlined that bigotry is a two-way street and I thought it a brave approach here.
     
  10. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator EXP: 11 Years Staff Member

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    Season Three


    [​IMG]

    HEY LICK ME OVER/THE SON ALSO RISES
    • It's good to see Benny in the opening titles. I'd wondered if the character would grate on me this time round, but he's been a joy. The scene where he voted was quite moving.
    • Abby continues to become more interesting, with the character's shortcomings being not only acknowledged but used to inform the drama. Her not being seen as partnership material is creating some great conflict all round, and I really appreciated that Leland acknowledged how her personal crises had impacted on people's impressions of her before they'd had the chance to see her in action, which was my very complaint in the first half of Season One.
    • Grace is being used really well at the moment. There's more of her in the courtroom where she commands attention and less of her billing and cooing with Michael.
    • Once again, the contrasting tones of the stories are working in the show's favour. The comedic presentation of the man who couldn't keep his tongue to himself providing some light relief when crossed with the case of the family suing a security firm for not intervening while a woman was raped at gunpoint. On paper, having these two stories side-by-side is contradictory and tasteless. Both are, after all, about sexual assaults - one treated very seriously indeed and the other with frivolity. And yet the writers made it work.
     
  11. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator EXP: 11 Years Staff Member

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    ROMANCING THE DRONE

    I'm going to preface with a ranty little opening statement.

    It's probably clear from most of my reviews that Michael is far from my favourite character on the show. It's partly because of the material: there's far too much "heartthrob" material where he and Grace drool over one another, which just isn't my cup of tea. Outside of that and some nice work with Benny in the first episode of this season, there hasn't been too much to interest me. The series' running gag with Michael stuffing his face with pastries in the boardroom scenes, while mildly amusing, sums up the problem I have with Harry Hamlin as an actor, too. I find him to be too fidgety. I get the impression that he's working to get attention during ensemble scenes by using theatrical tricks to get the spotlight whether it's eating, playing with a prop, gurning in response to something another character is saying, looking offscreen as though something has just caught his eye or standing in the background of a scene he's walking away from and glancing back at the actors who are meant to be in the spotlight. In other words, rather than simply making what's on the page work he's trying a little too hard and causing distraction to the viewer.

    It extends to the courtroom scenes, where his delivery can become a little too mannered and theatrical. Which is a shame, because there are moments of greatness too, where the character feels quite natural and congruent with the environment. It just sometimes feels like Hamlin doesn't quite trust the viewer to see that he's acting well so he ramps it up just far enough to let everyone around him know that he's acting.

    Then along comes an episode like this where Michael undeniably behaves like a complete arsehole. And suddenly I feel a sense of vindication. "Look", I could happily shriek, pointing a shaking index finger at the screen where the characters are shaking their heads at his dickheadery, "I was right. He is a complete nob".

    But the fact is that I take my hat off to Hamlin for this episode. I came away with more respect for him than I've had in the show so far. Because to play this Michael for truth takes courage, and that's what he did. There was no sense that he wanted the viewer to like him despite his character's actions. As Michael - defending a rapist - brutally cross-examined his client's victim; as he suggested that she wanted it to happen; as he demanded she produce a journal of her most private thoughts that his client had read without the woman's permission; as he read passages aloud in a bid to damage her reputation simply for putting her deepest feelings down on paper; the Michael Kuzak on-screen is the same one we've watched all along. His manner consistent with what we've seen so far. It all reinforces that this is another layer to this character - hitherto unseen, but very real.

    He's not shown to be under any outside pressure, nor does he play it archly. Instead - as he unapologetically tells a disgusted Grace when things are over - Michael has gone all out for this client just as he would any other. From his point of view there's an honour attached to it. A lawyer upholding the privileges of his client. While the Michael so far has his faults, this is the clearest view we've had of him as a very flawed individual. And it was fascinating.

    The scene where the rape victim refused Michael's half-hearted after the fact attempt to reach out to her and instead let him know in no uncertain terms what she thought of his conduct was very satisfying and cathartic.

    The reliable Claudette Nevins was great as the opposing counsel. With very few lines she struck the perfect balance. Her warmth, empathy and support towards her client radiated out, as did her professionalism and her growing horror at Michael's line of approach. Sadly this appears to be her sole L.A. Law outing.

    In other news, Arnie and the judge split up; Stuart had an intimate moment with a piece of tupperware as he deposited sperm for testing, and discovered that he has low motility and newlywed Roxanne experienced trouble in paradise with her fear that David is boring.

    Stuart and Ann's ongoing story this season - their recognition that their biological clocks are ticking and their discussion about potentially becoming parents -is proving watchable. Ann reaching out and pulling Stuart out of his post-results doldrums was sweet.

    The dynamic of Arnie and Roxanne continues to be interesting. It feels like their failing relationships is almost down to the fact that they don't connect with their partners in the way they do one another. Roxanne confiding in Arnie about her husband's faults entered emotional infidelity territory, which brings a danger with it. The little thread these two have built up over the last couple of years is quite a complex one, and I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes.
     
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  12. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator EXP: 11 Years Staff Member

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    SPERMINATOR / THE PRINCESS AND THE PEE / DUMMY DEAREST / TO LIVE AND DIET IN L.A. / I'M IN THE NUDE FOR LOVE / VICTOR/VICTORIOUS

    Yes - another of those times where I've watched half a dozen episodes and can't face the thought of doing a full post for each. I'm not going to give myself a hard time about it. A few thoughts about the recent episodes...

    • Ann and Stuart's quest for a baby has been quite the journey. A lot has been packed into a short space of time, and I like that it's been acknowledged that they are rich, connected and privileged, therefore eligible for things to be sped up. The storyline included possibly the first example I've seen of a main character spilling her own pee over her desk.
    • The storyline of the man who could only speak through his dummy bore an uncanny resemblance to Dead Of Night. It's another example of a story that started out silly and turned into something quite poignant.
    • Abby's now left the firm and struck out on her own. All's going well, apart from her shooting dead one of her clients, not being paid by others and having a blazing row with Stuart. All of which has given the show some compelling moments.
    • And she's now dating a cop, played by Wayne Northrop: Michael the Chauffeur from Dynasty. I'm rather perplexed that he keeps bedding the most beautiful women in these shows. His appeal is lost on me.
    • Teri Hatcher appeared in the buff as a nudist, with just a strategically placed lamp and pen holder in the foreground. All the nude scenes were fun because of how they got round the censors with objects covering their various bits, and just a bottom or two in the background.
    • Michael was suspended from practicing law for a month for not disclosing that eyeliner man wasn't able to practice law. Cue the pouting.
    • Some very powerful scenes for Victor in the storyline of parents who wanted to end the life of their daughter who is in a vegetative state. So well written was it that I found myself switching allegiances as it went along and really questioning how I would approach such a dilemma as a juror.
    • Some less enticing scenes for Victor with Allison, a whorey pouty woman who is on Arnie's PA team and is driving all the men - including Benny - wild for reasons known only to them.
    • Grace has had far more to do in these episodes, and is giving us some of the best material in the show as a result. First up was her discovery that a cop killer she convicted who was sentenced to death was tried on evidence that the police had procured by putting a police informant in the killer's cell.
    • The scene where the jurors individually each to say how they had voted was chilling "Death" "Death" "Death". Ugh. Scenes like this reinforce how grateful I am to live in a country that's advanced at least a little way beyond this.
    • Grace's battle with the police to get the sentence overturned because of their complicity was really engrossing. Getting the killer to give them names of people involved in drive-by shootings as part of the deal showed a great deal of initiative. The corruption within the force to protect one of their own was highlighted by this. They promised not to harm the guy, and then put the word out that he'd informed, knowing he'd be killed by his own.
    • James Earl Jones was back and he and Susan Dey got some great courtroom scenes as he and Grace clashed again. They make great nemeses, and I'm really hoping he'll come back for more.
     
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  13. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator EXP: 11 Years Staff Member

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    THE PLANE MUTINY / IZZY ACKERMAN OR IS HE NOT? / THE ACCIDENTAL JURIST / BARSTOW BOUND / LEAVE IT TO GEEZER

    Fun as his ridiculous imbroglios have been, it's good to see a more human side to Brackman. The storyline where he got furious at being kept on a grounded plane for hours was enjoyable. But what really showed his soft underbelly was a scene in which he overheard his colleagues in a clandestine meeting airing whispered concerns that if Leland were to leave the company, Brackman would take over and the partners would probably leave, causing the firm to fold. Seeing the usually confrontative Brackman slink wordlessly away was quite a pitiful sight. Building on this was a later scene in which he addressed it with the people he'd heard. It was done in a respectful and implicit way and simply showed where he was coming from. I hope to see more of this vulnerable side from time to time.

    Ann and Stuart taking baby Kelsey home has given a chance to see some different sides to them - as well as a number of other characters. Leland waving his keys to entertain her when she cried or Benny melting with delight when Ann put Kelsey into his arms are very endearing. The most entertaining scene of this storyline to date saw Ann trying to hold a deposition while also holding Kelsey. When challenged by her opponent, she ended up screaming at him, at his client and at her own client. All while holding the baby in her arms. The scene ended up with her leaving the room, carrying the baby and shouting back over her shoulder for everyone to get out. It's the sort of scene that would be seen again and again on Desperate Housewives as part of Lynette's character. Then I wondered if Marc Cherry or the writing team took inspiration from LA Law when coming up with the character. Either way, it was really funny here. I love when Ann gets riled up.

    Grace has also had some lighter scenes, with the elderly gang of robbers and their ancient, hard of hearing attorney. It's somewhere between Cocoon and Futurama's Professor Farnsworth.

    Contrasting with this was the trial of a woman who had shot dead her abusive ex-husband. The verdict actually caused my palms to sweat. Inexperienced at trial, Jonathan was feeling the pressure and had struck a bargain for the woman to get two years for manslaughter, rather than risk thirty years for murder one. She accepted, but Jonathan saw the jury were looking at the accused when they returned, and so backtracked, saying he didn't want the bargain. The relief when the jury eventually came back with a not guilty verdict was palpable. Not just for the accused and Jonathan, but for me as a viewer. I was watching with someone and we both exhaled with relief after holding our breath.

    Michael representing the gay athlete suing for losing an endorsement deal was fascinating. The case itself was watchable enough, but the real interest came from seeing how the gay men in this episode were presented. The conservative judge was specifically chosen by Michael because an investigator had discovered he was a closeted gay man, which Michael felt would give his client the most sympathy. I appreciated that it fell flat, and he gave the verdict he felt was right. It's what happened after the verdict that really presented the gay characters as the two most dignified people on the screen this episode. First the judge, calling Michael on his reasons for choosing him, refused to change his mind - even after Michael threatened to out him which would give him a lot to lose. Following this, his client felt that it wouldn't be right to press things and chose to accept the verdict. There was a nobility to their arcs.

    Arnie was kidnapped at gunpoint by a man whose wife was infatuated with him, and taken to their trailer park. After the husband left, the scene that followed was one that I'm still trying to get my head round. He refused the woman's advances, telling her not to touch him and that he would never be interested in her. Finally, he walked away leaving her naked and sobbing. I found myself wondering if this was shallow Arnie, walking away because she was poor, or sensitive Arnie walking away because he didn't want to shatter her illusions. The jury's out on this one still, but it's one of the most fascinating Arnie scenes to date.

    Roxanne is getting on my nerves. Is the woman ever bloody happy? She moaned because she was single. Now she's moaning because she's unhappy in her marriage (she asked for a separation after about a week of marriage, and put up no fight at all when David offered to leave his own home that she had moved into, even though it was her who caused the situation). She was moaning about her weight. She was moaning about being poor. Now she's married to a multi-millionaire and still moaning. Incidentally, Arnie has revealed that if she were to divorce, she would walk away with $2m. I wonder where this is going. She's coming across as very self-absorbed, drama queeny and unlikeable. Her one saving grace in recent episodes is that she punched Morgan Brittany right off her chair, breaking her nose. I found myself hoping Susan Ruttan is a method actress.

    The recap at the beginning of Leave It To Geezer gave me a weird moment. It had a couple of scenes with Leland and his young girlfriend (unseen for several episodes) where they discussed his suspected heart attack which had turned out to be indigestion. I'm 99% certain this scene didn't appear in a previous episode. What's more, it was briefly referenced in the episode itself when said girlfriend reappeared. I checked to see if I'd missed an episode, but it appears not. Could it have been cut? And if so, why?!
     
  14. Mel O'Drama

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    THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING / HIS SUIT IS HIRSUTE

    Season Three saw a number of changes of direction from very early on. Abby leaving the firm; Roxanne's marriage to Dave; Ann and Stewart's quest for a child, leading to their adoption of baby Kelsey. While I had doubts about all of them about how long they could continue, they've proved more enjoyable than not and allowed the series to feel a little more expansive. The shift in dynamics has proved interesting too - now we know the characters we get to see how they behave in different situations.

    As we head towards the end of the season, there's a sense that some of these changes are starting to be wrapped up. Dave and Roxanne's marriage is crumbling (it wasn't exactly solid); Abby is in legal trouble after a drug dealer made payment using drug money; Ann and Stewart have been forced to hand their baby back to her birth mother who had a change of heart. Whether this will lead them back to the "normality" of their former lives in the longer term remains to be seen.

    Abby striking out on her own has seen the character become more interesting. The series and the characters within all acknowledging that Abby went somewhat under the radar at Mackenzie-Brackman and was seen to be timid has proved to be the best thing for all concerned. She still shares plenty of scenes with her old colleagues - and now they mean something.

    Another character to benefit from this is Grace. She and Abby have been opposing counsel in several trials and that energy has worked well. Both Grace and Abby continue to interact with characters based at the firm in other trials. In fact Grace has been better used this season than she was in the first two combined. Grace and Michael have now tearfully taken a break from each other, which has to be for the good of the show. Both had been looking round outside the relationship: Michael has been involved with a rather irritating actress and Grace impulsively kissed Victor.

    Dave has been shown to be consistently thoughtless and in turn borderline shaming with Roxanne. So it's to the credit of the writers and actor Dann Florek that Dave is one of the most likeable people on the show. I've had far more sympathy for him than I have Roxanne who is in a situation she manufactured herself and still complaining left, right and centre. She could get quite unbearable in divorce proceedings.

    Jonathan interviewed interns and chose one on the basis of how attractive he found her. This looks like being another whirlwind romance. In her first episode, after being taken on Diane revealed to Jonathan that she was happily married. In her second episode she's getting divorced. She may still yet bear Jonathan's child by season's end.

    The trial for Ann and Stuart to fight for baby Kelsey had some nice moments for all concerned, as one may expect. Jill Eikenberry in particular was wonderful.

    The cold start to His Suit... was an example of the kind of wacky silliness that this show toys with and makes work. The "objection" moment at 2:20 in the video made me grin, helped by Michael Fairman as Judge McGrath:

     
  15. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator EXP: 11 Years Staff Member

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    AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL

    Douglas and Benny: we haven't got to see them interact very much, and this episode made up for it. Realising he would appear more formidable in approaching a potential lucrative client if he had more representation with him, Douglas ordered Benny to sit at his side and pretend to be another lawyer, with the instructions not to speak and to pretend to write the entire time. Giving Benny his specs to wear was a cute touch too. As anticipated, this didn't go quite to plan during the meeting with Leo Hackett (played by Wayne Tippit AKA Amanda Woodward's Dad):



    Leo Hackett: We're severing our tides with Gacey Whitman because I want to be able to pick up the phone and talk to my attorneys, I don't want to wait 3 days for a return call. What's going to make this work is compatibility, because if you don't like the way I do business, if you're constantly having to be the barrier of bad news, it's going to affect your commitment to us.

    Brackman: Rest assure, Leo, that our professional obligation...

    Leo Hackett: What does your associate think?

    [Douglas looks startled. Everyone turns towards Benny who continues writing with his head down]

    Leo Hackett: You.

    Brackman: Uh, Ben?

    [Benny looks hesitantly at Leo]

    Leo Hackett: You heard all this. Uh, how would you assess this imagine terms of compatibility?

    Benny [after a pause]: I don't know.

    Leo Hackett: I don't know either, Ben, but I appreciate the candour. For once, a lawyer doesn't bluff an answer when he doesn't have one. Thank you, Ben.



    Later in the episode, Leo expresses a desire for "Ben" to attend another meeting between he and Douglas. Surprisingly, Douglas does the right thing and confesses all: Benny's role at the office and his special needs as well as Douglas's motives for persuading Benny to attend the meeting.

    Now I usually see Wayne Tippit playing tycoon types or out and out sleazes. The kind of men who aren't known for their tolerance. So his reaction to Douglas's announcement that Benny is "retarded" was a little surprising. He asked to speak to Benny and clearly felt it was important, though it wasn't so clear why. On meeting Benny, Leo explained that his own daughter was "retarded" and reluctant to work for him or become independent. He was very impressed that Benny managed to find his way round and lead a full life and wanted Benny to speak to his daughter Alice about his job.

    I wasn't so sure about Amanda Plummer's performance as Alice at first, but the storyline was so endearing it won me over. Larry Drake is consistently excellent as Benny, and the sight of him driving a Rolls Royce Corniche round a car park while shrieking with disbelief and excitement was really beautiful.

    Once again, Abby's progress as a character was acknowledged on-screen, with Leland asking her to come back to the firm observing how tough she'd become and that she was definitely the kind of person they wanted. With the characters being so in tune with my experiences of Abby as a viewer, I can almost believe that this was the plan all along and Abby's rather dull first season was by design in order to give her this arc. Even if it's not true, it's made the big picture much richer and has enhanced my enjoyment. I'm on the verge of looking forward to Abby's scenes.

    Ann and Stuart - while appearing in a cold opening where Stuart pleaded with Ann to accept that Kelsey was gone for good and in a boardroom scene where he thanked everyone for their support - were mostly sidelined this episode. With the previous episode still resonating I feel this was a wise move. Psychobabble and analysis aren't the style of this show and it's kept its edge by moving onwards and allowing the characters to deal with things piecemeal.

    Roxanne is still irritating me. She seems to want to have it both ways: she wants to be virtuous while screwing over the man she married knowing she didn't love him. On the one hand she's saying she doesn't want to go after Dave's money. But it took Arnie all of 15 seconds to persuade her to do just that.
     
  16. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator EXP: 11 Years Staff Member

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    URINE TROUBLE NOW / CONSUMED INNOCENT

    The suit with the beer maker who was accused of peeing in their product to water it down felt very topical. Not so much the pee part, but the fact that there was racism behind it with the brewer being Mexican. It broached the subject of cultural attitudes towards Mexican people in America. Sadly, the description of people who go to great lengths to enter America and start a new life only to be persecuted immediately made me think of the situation in 2017 with walls being built, innocent people being refused entry and long-time residents being ordered to leave. Very sad to think that the culture today is no better than the extreme cases talked about in 1989.

    Tony Plana - Poppy Suarez from Ugly Betty - was Roberta Rivera, the defence attorney for the person who'd spread the rumour. Victor was taking on the case for the brewer. I really enjoyed the relationship between Victor and Roberta and believed their history as having known each other for many years. They had some nice scenes together, culminating in a wordless final scene where Victor just sat next to Roberta in support.

    Jonathan and Diana's relationship is kind of sickening. Their first kiss was immediately after her divorce proceedings - an event in which Jonathan was as antagonistic as possible towards Diana's husband. It seems right in character for him to be so arrogant about it, but it's not a pretty thing to watch him, and no better to see Diana press on with her divorce while making sure she has her next husband lined up.

    The battle of The Sensations versus The New Sensations - the original group wanting to reclaim their name because the new, young group was bastardising their material - was enjoyable filler. The originals clearly seemed based on The Temptations, though the issue itself reminded me of the Bucks Fizz debacle. I knew we were in for a fun ride when the judge declared that he would need to see both groups perform in order to make a judgement.

    Benny and Alice's storyline continues to endear. Their scenes in Urine Trouble Now were very cute, with Benny showing Alice how the photocopier worked by making a copy of his face, leading to a scene where he told Abby about his new friend and produced a photo of her face, squished on the copier. Having said that I'm used to Wayne Tippitt playing heavies, I got to see that side to him in Consumed Innocent where after seeing Benny and Alice kiss Leo threatened Douglas that he would pull his business from the firm if Douglas didn't stop Benny from seeing Alice. It was quite a moment for Brackman to see him stand his ground and refuse to bend to Leo's threat - even though it was likely to cost the firm a great deal of money. Leo came round eventually and thanked Douglas for telling him to go to hell.

    Dave and Roxanne's story has ended, with Dan Florek getting some wonderful parting scenes. First his justifiably angry outburst in the divorce hearing and then his sad, quiet conversation with Roxanne at his own front door. She's still living in his house, forcing him to live in a hotel while taking him for all she can. What a bitch. Roxanne got the best part of $1m from Dave for just a couple of months of marriage. Then in true Roxanne style, she spent the final episode bewailing the fact that her income wasn't as much as expected and she may still have to work. Season Three Roxanne has been very ugly indeed. She's become the most calculating and nasty character on the show. The second most calculating character is now Abby. Who'd have thought it of these two?

    In contrast to Roxanne, Abby's shrewdness and greed in her negotiations with Leland and Douglas to return to the firm - were quite endearing. Perhaps because she wasn't playing the ingenuous injured party while screwing them over. Instead she put her cards on the table and went for it.

    With Ann and Stuart's soapy arc this season, it was appropriate that the final episode ended with the equally soapy twist that Ann is pregnant. The final shot of the two of them beaming with happiness felt quite satisfying. And if memory serves it also gave us the first freeze frame of the entire series so far.
     
  17. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator EXP: 11 Years Staff Member

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    Season Four


    [​IMG]


    THE UNSTERILE CUCKOO / CAPTAIN HURT / WHEN IRISH EYES ARE SMILING


    Steven Bochco's name now no longer appears at the end as an EP, so he appears to have moved on. Instead, David E. Kelley's is there. His name unnerves me slightly as I associate it with the cartoony antics of Ally McBeal (not that that show didn't have its moments of goodness). But still - he's been involved in most episodes of the series to date as a writer anyway so maybe I shouldn't panic just yet. Besides, as I recall, the next couple of seasons have some of the more memorable storylines. But that could go either way. At the moment I'm keeping an open mind.

    In the first few episodes, there are a couple of small tweaks to be found, perhaps indicative of the change in personnel at the bridge. The biggest difference between this season and the previous is that Season Four - at least so far - feels more serialised. Of course, the show has always been serialised to some degree (think of Abby's son's kidnap going back to the opening episodes of Season One) and has quite organically become more so as it's gone along (Ann and Stuart's adoption storyline last season is an example from more recent episodes). Procedural cases have frequently taken place over two or three episodes, with some callbacks. But in Season Four there's a more emphatic "To be continued" sense that serials have. There's less closure and more enticement to come back next week. The episode endings have less closure and more cliffhanger. Carl Lumbly's character's trial for murder is one of the most ambitious yet as it has taken up the second two episodes of the show, with both the second and the third episode ending on a cliffhanger. The end of the third episode saw him receive a guilty verdict and a call for him to be murdered by the state in return.

    It's been great to see Lumbly playing this role. Petrie was one of my favourite characters in Cagney & Lacey, and I can't help feeling invested because of how likeable I found his character there. Here he's equally likeable, though not without his secrets. It's already emerged that he lied to Michael and to the court about by saying that he didn't have sex with the student he's accused of murdering (DNA proved otherwise). This allows me as a viewer to wonder how much to believe him.I can't help being reminded of the episode where suspicion fell on Petrie after his sister's rapist was killed. Everyone had their doubts then - even me, thanks in no small part to Lumbly being convincingly layered. He's bringing that to the table here too.

    Veronica Cartwright as the prosecutor has been thoroughly enjoyable too. She's been shown to play dirty - bringing the DNA evidence of Lumbly's characters semen into the court without letting Michael or the judge know. I'm looking forward to seeing where she goes as things heat up.

    The furrier suing a group of activists for harassment was an engrossing watch too. To see Victor wrestling with his conscience about representing the man after watching a video of animals being caught in traps and hearing graphic details about how the animals are killed (drowned; bludgeoned; shot or speared) showed just how affected he was by it. It was far more effective than him prosecuting the furrier. I could have done without seeing the footage of animals being caught in traps, but hopefully it enlightened some viewers.

    There's been a nice balance of comedy and heartening storylines. Victor taking Benny to buy condoms proved satisfyingly awkward with a group of people gathering round and the pharmacists assuming Benny and Victor were a couple. And of course there was the obligatory price check on the condoms to thoroughly shame them (I'm wondering if this was before or after a similar scenario in The Golden Girls). With Victor only going to show an uncomfortable Benny that buying condoms was easy, I enjoyed that it was Victor who came away embarrassed from being aware of everything going on around them while oblivious Benny was just thrilled at buying condoms.

    The condom scene came out of a more serious story where Leo had been planning to have Alice sterilised to prevent her becoming pregnant by Benny. Scenes of trying to impart the seriousness of such a decision to Alice and Benny showed some more sensitive side to the characters. It's nice to see Abby in the thick of it again at times like this.

    On a slightly broader - McBealesque - note there was the man who had defrauded his company on the instructions of his dominatrix. There was the slight contrivance (which I accepted) of all authority figures in the scene being female. The reliable Tricia O'Neill was his defence attorney, while Grace was prosecuting. There was even a female judge. The actor playing the masochist was very enjoyable, with lots of longing looks towards Grace and little shudders when he was told off by her. The climax (for want of a better expression) came when he insisted on being punished and was happily taken away by a burly female officer.

    All in all, a nice start to the season.
     
  18. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator EXP: 11 Years Staff Member

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    THE MOUSE THAT SOARED / ONE RAT, ONE RANGER

    David Rappaport's return for his third episode as Hamilton Schuyler by this point brought a nice familiarity and it was good to see him go up against Victor again. The "dwarf tossing" storyline was frivolous at first glance but did get to delve a little deeper into the hierarchy of discrimination and whether one needs to belong to a diversity group in order to be offended by discrimination towards that group. Plus Hamilton and Schuyler had their traditional post-trial evening out together. There's a nice energy between these two.

    Watching the visibly pregnant Ann wanting to take on a pro-life case for a friend I couldn't help being struck by the similarity to an earlier Cagney & Lacey episode, The Clinic, in which heavily pregnant Mary Beth came up against a pro-choice group of terrorists. Terry Louise Fisher's influence, I wonder? It played fine here, but felt far more lightweight than the C&L episode. Ann coming under pressure from the partners urging her not to take the case seemed like a cop out - a way of dabbling with the idea just enough to establish that Ann would be willing to do it without actually following it through.

    Likewise, during the paedophilia storyline, I found myself finding echoes of the C&L Child Witness episode, which also had the characters debating whether to put a child on the witness stand. Kathy Bates's presence made sure One Rat, One Ranger was an electric watch. The episode scores for laying out the facts and allowing the viewer to judge for themselves. It's by no means a pleasant watch, and I was surprised how graphic some of the descriptions were - almost to the point of being unnecessary.

    Carl Lumbly's run has continued and he seems to be in deeper and deeper with a witness called in to prove his innocence being deemed unreliable.

    Rosalind Shays has officially arrived. I remember her character as a favourite from the Eighties, so I'm looking forward to seeing if she lives up to it.

    Some storylines just feel disposable even as I watch. The rat loose in the office was one. It felt like filler and told us little about the character of those involved.

    Stuart taking on the case of the woman suing a dating agency for not finding her a suitable man turned out to be quite watchable. It was nice to see a different side to Stuart. The best part of this storyline turned out to be the closure with Dave Meyer, who made a cameo appearance bumping into Stuart and the woman in question. Dave and the dating woman were instantly twitterpated and walked off to their happy ending. It was a nice touch.
     
  19. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator EXP: 11 Years Staff Member

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    LIE DOWN AND DELIVER / PLACENTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN / THE GOOD HUMAN BAR / NOAH'S BARK / THE PAY'S LOUSY, BUT THE TIPS ARE GREAT / TRUE BRIT / ON YOUR HONOUR

    A bit of catching up once again. And this week's marathon has seen much action that can only be summed up with a rather dry résumé. To wit:

    • Arnie left the firm, stealing his files, his clients and his secretary. He's used the leverage to return as a full partner with his name added to the firm's.
    • Roxanne returned with Arnie but since staged a walkout with the other secretaries over working conditions.
    • Ann has given birth to a baby girl.
    • Grace was offered a position as a judge, accepting and having a very full first day - including sentencing a 16 year old to life imprisonment.
    • Michael is dating Courtney Thorne-Smith, forgetting that small fact just long enough to get it on with Grace again. The guy is a pig.
    • Benny proposed to Alice with her father's blessing and she accepted in one of the series' most moving moments so far.
    • Rosalind is conniving very subtly, which is ensuring I look forward to her scenes.
    • One of Diana's friends hit and killed someone and the firm has had to conceal it out of duty - an interesting moral dilemma.
    • Victor's irritating girlfriend Allison was raped and stopped wearing makeup for a week.
    • Janice from Friends asked Jonathan's help in being cryogenically frozen until a cure can be found for her terminal condition.
    • John Standing gave a great turn as brilliantly eccentric British barrister Nigel Morris. His only appearance, sadly.
    • There was a very dodgy Michael Caine-esque cockney accent from the man Morris represented ("I ply 'ard, but I ply fay-uh", he assured the courtroom). I'd assumed he was an American trying to do British, but turns out the actor - Christopher Neame is British. He could have fooled me.

    Besides Benny's proposal, my favourite scene of the week was Ann returning to work to find Rosalind using her office, hastily evicting her: "I need my desk. I need my chair. I need my office. Get off the phone." It's the perfect post-Dynasty, pre-Melrose bridge.
     
  20. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator EXP: 11 Years Staff Member

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    WHATEVER HAPPENED TO HANNAH? / EX-WIVES AND VIDEOTAPES / BLOOD, SWEAT AND FEARS

    There's a sense that everything is working with the series at this point, and Rosalind seems to personify that. While previous seasons' ongoing story arcs saw characters wrapped up in dramas that affected their careers to some degree (Roxanne and Arnie's involvement with Dave; Douglas's convoluted family revelations; Ann and Stuart's adoption saga), the arrival of Rosalind has brought all manner of conflict into the working environment, polarising everyone there.

    The previous set-to between Rosalind and Ann continues to resonate with their characters treading on eggshells, making veiled threats and reaching awkward agreements. And others are getting involved in the dance. Leland - having enough of the conflict going on - has stepped down as senior partner: a position Douglas, Stuart and Rosalind all threw their hats into the ring for. It's perhaps inevitable that Rosalind would win out, creating maximum awkwardness all round. The vote showed a poignant side to Douglas who had voted for Rosalind believing nobody would vote for him. The irony being that if he had voted for himself he would have become senior partner. I'm looking forward to the fallout of it all.

    The Earl Williams murder trial which has run through the entire season so far has proven to be gripping. The writing has been spot-on, and the combination of Carl Lumbly as Earl and Veronica Cartwright as the less-than-moral DA Margaret Flanahan have given the story a feeling of importance. The ongoing trial has given the writers the opportunity to build a rich story. Harry Hamlin's acting falters occasionally - there's a sense that at times he is trying to enhance the writing with an overwrought delivery. Completely unnecessary, of course, when the writing is this good, and it comes close to diluting things. But with Lumbly and Cartwright in the same space - even when they are silent - there's nothing that could drag this story down. The stakes have felt high with this one, so Williams's death sentence being overturned and Flanahan getting a form of commupance being revealed to have deliberately withheld evidence both felt extremely satisfying. It also was a little anti-climactic, but that's possibly more about me not wanting these characters to leave the show.

    In addition to Lumbly, Stanley Kamel - another face from Cagney & Lacey - has returned to L.A. Law in his recurring role as Mark Gilliam. As in Season One's appearances, his case involves someone suffering from AIDS. This time he represents the widow of an AIDS patient who died after a doctor refused to operate on learning of the man's status. It's revealed here that Gilliam himself is HIV+, which gives Kamel the opportunity to bring a powerful subtext to his performance. His final scene where he asked Victor to take on some cases of his - knowing he will soon be too unwell to deal with them - was genuinely moving. Quite a feat for such a small role, and worlds away from his loud-mouthed, arrogant, womanising character on C&L. Before this past year, I associated Kamel most closely with his recurring role on Melrose Place and his one-shot appearance as a psychotic baddie on Charlie's Angels. That's four completely disparate roles. His recurring appearances in C&L and L.A. Law have brought me to a place where I look forward to seeing his name in credits and I'll be sure to pay attention whenever I see his name associated with other shows from now on.

    I can't help feeling that another reason LA Law is working so well at the moment is the feeling that everything is in its place. Roxanne in particular is once again reduced to the occasional line (barring the walkout episode) rather than scene after scene of her complaining, hand-wringing and squinting angrily. And she works so much better this way - unlike the irritating, overused Roxanne of Season Three. Likewise, Abby has a smaller role since returning to the firm, but she is used well and her new, more confident persona is far more effective in smaller doses at the moment. When she speaks I pay attention and the way she interacts with pretty much everyone is quite fascinating because it's not being explored in-depth. It's just there.

    It's not uncommon for main characters not to appear in an episode. In fact it's happening a lot at the moment. Benny is a character I love, and I think Larry Drake is a wonderful actor, but there's been a bit of a break at the moment, with Benny not appearing in the last couple of episodes. Grace, too, wasn't in the latest episode. And it's true that absence makes the heart grow fonder.
     

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