By Ken Tucker
Updated November 15, 1991 at 05:00 AM EST

At L.A. Law they’re hiring new attorneys so quickly that office manager Benny (Larry Drake) has already been reduced to wracked sobs just trying to get everyone’s mail sorted properly. So far, the new character making the biggest impact is Conchata Ferrell’s Susan Bloom, a blowsy entertainment lawyer hired to pump some fast, much-needed cash into the coffers of the McKenzie, Brackman law firm — and to add some life to a show that has become rather wan since the departures of Harry Hamlin and Jimmy Smits.

Bloom has been positioned as a smart vulgarian whose crass behavior appalls the stiff-necked WASP Leland (Richard Dysart). (There’s just a whiff of the subtext that dares not speak its name in prime time: anti-Semitism.) Loud and colorful, Ferrell has had a few boisterous showcase scenes, but the season’s two other new kids — Michael Cumpsty as an amoral (and unplaceably European) shark and Tom Verica as a bland hunk with a just-rolled-out-of-bed smile — have been left to scramble for screen time.

In fact, overpopulation is now L.A. Law‘s biggest problem. Talking to fans and reading reviews, I seem to be in the minority on this, but I continue to think that Law made a strategic mistake in pushing these new characters at us so soon after the introduction of the lawyers played by Amanda Donohoe, John Spencer, and Cecil Hoffmann last season. Hoffmann, in particular, has been given next to nothing to do so far this season; she’s become merely a lissome, spectral presence on the show, haunting the McKenzie, Brackman hallways in the background of scenes, gazing off-camera with a zombielike stare. Pretty soon she’ll be reduced to stuffing mailboxes for Benny. B

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