By Nicholas Fonseca
Updated October 25, 2006 at 12:00 PM EDT

Is Boston Legal the most preposterous show on television… or just the most entertaining? And if it’s one, the other, or both… why is nobody talking about it? I’m actually convinced that there’s a silent minority of Legal fans out there — and if you are, please pipe up — who watch the show on a weekly basis yet keep its immeasurable charms to themselves. I know I’m one of them.

ABC keeps Boston Legal in its arsenal but never drags it out for display, what with those housewives and doctors and dancing stars and brothers and sisters and Others taking up so much of their promotional time. Which must explain how David E. Kelley gets away with writing a show that plays like the perfect mix of The Practice‘s bleeding-heart ethos and Ally McBeal‘s flights of fancy. In fact, I’d venture to say that one crisp, fast-moving hour of Legal is more wholly satisfying than Desperate Housewives‘ endless parade of idiocy (can we just get rid of Nora, already?), Brothers & Sisters‘ too-crowded family saga, and any of ABC’s unfortunate reality TV offerings. Here’s why:

The trials They’re compelling, timely, and often imbuedwith a tawdry twist. (The usually ultra-liberal closing arguments canannoy, but hell, at least they’re well-considered.) This season’s firststunner involved a murdered judge, her young lover, and his icky sexualattraction to his mother. It ended quickly — in less than sixepisodes! — and with a jaw-dropping mother/son French kiss. I kid you not.

The fourth wall As in… there is none. Head on over to Wikipedia’s Boston Legal pageto see just how many times it’s gone all meta on us. And start payingcloser attention if you haven’t already noticed this wink and nod tothe perceptive viewer.

The little lady You’ll see a shout-out to MeredithEaton-Gilden in this Friday’s new issue of EW, but she also deservesprops right here on our blog. The wee actress is a total riot asDenny’s on-again/off-again girlfriend, Bethany, and every time shecomes onscreen, well… let’s just say my neighbors know about itbecause I’m usually bellowing out something stupid like,”Betha-NYYYYYY!” and raising my fists in victory. (My cats don’t likeit, either.) Delta Burke arrives next week as her mother. Those of uswho still think Delta deserved an Emmy, Golden Globe, SAG, and People’sChoice Award for her performance as Cherry Cherry on Popular await, panting eagerly.

Mark Valley Hey, I just like looking at his pretty face. But really, David E. Kelley, can’t you give Keen Eddie more to do?!

The guest stars Constance Zimmer, Katey Sagal, Michael J.Fox, Heather Locklear, Rupert Everett, Anthony Heald, Leslie Jordan,Christian Clemenson, Tom Selleck, Parker Posey, Robert Wagner…need Igo on? Oh wait, yes! I do! Betty White! First of all, I must say thatwatching Betty (pictured, with James Spader) hit poor Leslie Jordan’s sniveling sadsack over the headwith a frying pan last season was a high point in my TV-watchingcareer; watching her waltz out during that bizarro boxing sequence acouple of weeks ago, totally unannounced, sent me into another fit ofdelight. What can I say? For those of us who began worshipping at thealtar of the idiot box from an early age, few shows can match Legal forhey-it’s-that-guy! delight.

Boston Legal isn’t without its problems. Nobody was piningfor Lake Bell and her boobs to return. Craig Bierko is gobbling up waytoo much scenery as the braying (and boring) new hotshot lawyer JeffreyCoho. The over-the-top antics can become grating. And at some point,it’d be nice to see Alan Shore actually try, you know, having a realrelationship that lets him act his age, not like a horny 19-year-old.What do you think? Is Boston Legal deserving of a largeraudience? Has it kept you entertained this season? And don’t you thinkBethany should become a series regular?