Boston Legal turned out to be creator David E. Kelley’s best series ever. Wrapping up its fifth and final season on Dec. 8, it possessed the energy Picket Fences lacked and the heart Ally McBeal never had. Spun off from Kelley’s dour ”quality drama” series The Practice (1997?2004), Legal quickly morphed into a genially tasteless, wacky free-for-all. It’s ? beloved by Emmy voters, suckers for the hambone acting of James Spader as the oily but eloquent Alan Shore and William Shatner as the pompous, priapic Denny Crane. They also love the show’s Hollywood-liberal pieties: No prime-time series has more ? ardently inveighed against the Bush administration. But one of its finest achievements was technical. Credit frequent director Bill D’Elia for finally giving Kelley’s talky scripts visual pizzazz; the show’s trademark camera zooms and eye-wrenching rack-focus shots deserve more kudos.
In its final seasons, Legal became giddily self-referential. A Nov. 10 subplot about a teen girl seeking an abortion was deemed ”not fun” by Denny. ”Consider it your Emmy episode,” Alan retorted. Ultimately, Legal turned into a no-sex-please-we’re-straight romantic comedy. ”I’ll never be alone; I’ll always have you,” said Denny, pondering the inevitability of aging with Alan. ”I love you more now,” Alan said, after discovering Denny had voted for Obama. Their signature episode-closing chats brought the frenzied foolishness to a soothing halt, as they sat on the office balcony sipping scotch and smoking stogies. These puffing pals bestowed something rare upon Kelley World: unironic bliss. Puff away, boys. B