For a little over a year now I have been a fan of the TV drama Boston Legal. From the first time I downloaded a show to watch I was hooked. Part of it was the ensemble cast of William Shatner as Denny Crane, James Spader as Alan Shore, Candice Bergen as Shirley Schmidt, John Larroquette as Carl Sack, Christian Clemenson as Jerry Espenson, and Tara Summers as Katie Lloyd; another part was the stellar writing and the topics the show addressed—from taking on big pharmaceutical firms to the tobacco industry.
Despite the show’s obvious liberal underpinnings, Boston Legal was another example of what “good” television can be like. The show was slick and while it might be slighted for it’s blatant liberalism, it was one of the few shows on television today aimed at Baby Boomers and the over 50 audience. The show was also famous for “breaking the fourth wall” by making contact with the “real world.
In the second to last episode, Carl Sack takes on the television industry and also breaks that fourth wall:
“There may have been a time when it didn’t make practical business sense to exclude the old, but not today,” Sack continued. “Americans over 50 make up the fastest growing market . . . The baby boomers, now all over 50, earn two trillion in annual income . . . We’ve got more money. We spend more money. We watch more television. We go to more movies. We buy more CDs than young people do. And yet, we’re the focus of less than ten percent of the advertising. All the networks want to do is skew younger. Kids shows for kids! The only show unafraid to have its stars over 50 is Bo . . .” (Here Sack pointed directly to the camera.)
“I can’t say it,” Sack sighed. “It would break the [fourth] wall!”
Brilliant. Classic television? Maybe, but I think it was much more. I think it was a television show just being honest.
Toward the end of the same episode, Denny Crane and Alan Shore talk about their next challenge—a return to the Supreme Court, this time to argue in favor of allowing Alzheimer’s patients access to drugs that are known to slow the progress of the disease but are not yet approved by the FDA—and also break the fourth wall.
“Hey, maybe I’ll retire after this,” Crane mused, cigar in hand. “What better way to go out? My last case, in front of the Supreme Court. Now there’s a finale!”
“They should put it on TV,” Shore responded.
“They’ll get ratings!” Crane agreed.
“If they promoted us,” Shore replied. “Of course, I think there’s a law against promoting us.”
“Seems to be,” Crane concluded.
Obviously that was a dig at the network that had not promoted the show as much as it should have.
I had no idea that this was going to be Boston Legal’s last season. In fact, when I downloaded what is now the last show of the series, I still had no idea until later when I was wondering why there was that last shot of the Denny and Alan on the balcony. And then, after I watched it and realized that it was indeed the last show, I was bummed. I suppose a lot had to do with looking forward every week to the show—like I do with a few other programs I download weekly because they’ve become my only source of entertainment and in many ways my lifeline back to the States.
The last time I felt this way about a show ending was with The West Wing in 2006.
Now there is another void in my life—a small one, but a void nonetheless.
I really liked this show a lot and I am going to miss watching it. I know one thing that I am going to miss a lot is the relationship between Denny and Alan. I have found some magic at the ending of each episode with Denny’s and Alan’s beloved and intimate booze-and-cigar balcony conversations. It’d be easy to call them the most verbally affectionate straight men on television, but really, I can’t think of any two characters on TV that express their friendship more articulately like this exchange of dialogue in the second-to-last episode when Denny contemplates what he’d do if Alan is unsuccessful in convincing the Supreme Court that Denny should have access to a non-FDA approved drug to slow his Alzheimer’s:
Denny: I made another decision today.
Alan: Which is?
Denny: I’m not dying.
Alan: I like that idea.
Denny: I’m gonna get my hands on this drug, one way or another. Hell, this is America. If we have to, we’ll….
Denny: Damn right. And even if I fail, they say if you keep getting excited about life, the blood rushes to your brain better. I’ll love life, Alan, even if it kills me. I’ll fish. I’ll be with you. I’ll love life, Alan…
A stellar cast, brilliant writing, and heartwarming, thought-provoking episodes.
Yeah, I am going to miss this show a lot.