During its four-year, five-season run, the television program "Boston Legal" carried the all-time highest viewership of what Nielson Media Research considered as the richest youth segment in America, referring to those members of the home audience aged eighteen to forty-nine with incomes exceeding $100,000 per year.
The characters in this program certainly do dress well. Perhaps that explains the appeal.
Or it might be that "Boston Legal" was, is, and forever will be the funniest drama or most intense comedy that television has ever produced.
I'm probably not the right person to ask, at least as far as comparisons are concerned. I have not watched a prime-time network TV program since 1982, except in syndication, something that producer David E. Kelley smartly made possible by holding the show to precisely one hundred episodes, the minimum required to assure syndication.
All those rich people watching my favorite program? Perhaps the educational basis upon which the program depended explains the connection. After all, lots of money implies at least the access to formal education. Maybe there were just a lot of lawyers out there who loved the contribution of Sir John Mortimer, legal consultant to the program. Maybe I'm simply wealthy and haven't noticed it yet.
"Boston Legal" had a lot working against it. First of all, it was a spin-off of "The Practice," a program that lasted eight seasons, true, but which struggled most of the time. Still, "The Practice" had been a smart show, essentially a reaction against the slickness that producer-writer David E. Kelley had disliked in his time with the frequently despicable "L.A. Law." Second, "BL" kept bleeding out cast members, some of them rather integral to each season's success. Here again, though, the core constituents--James Spader as Alan Shore, William Shatner as Denny Crane--served as the friendship glue that held the viewers in their united fight to miss zero episodes. Third, throughout the show's five seasons, it appeared on five different nights of the week, although always at ten pm EST.
The program didn't so much as flinch at these presumed handicaps. Often enough Shatner and Spade would make subtle on-air quips about the program's inability to hold an audience. Characters would leave the series, return for guest spots, leave again, join the other side, disappear, return with a case of Aspergers, don a wig and become a transvestite, introduce Betty White as a serial killer, bring in various heavies such as Candice Bergen to keep control over the office full of loonies, discover that the new boss had joined the brigade of scofflaws. There was no consistency at all save for Denny Crane and Alan Shore. And that was all that was needed.
Well, okay, they also needed some great writers and they had plenty: in addition to Kelley himself (think of any smart TV show from the 1990s or early 2000s and his name will be there somewhere), the show boasted Lawrence Broch, Janet Leahy, Susan Dickes, and Micheal Reisz, among several other wild talents. Anyone who doubts the supreme value of good writing on a TV show should try to explain the brilliance of some of the following.
Brad: I outrank you.Alan: And I'm such a slut for authority.
Denny Crane: You hear the one about the fella who died, went to the pearly gates? St. Peter let him in. Sees a guy in a suit making a closing argument. Says, "Who's that?" St. Peter says, "Oh, that's God. Thinks he's Denny Crane."
Alan Shore: You have a job to do, and so do I. Yours is to sell socks and suspenders. Mine is to crush people.
If you have seen the show, these lines are talismans to your sanity. If they are not familiar to you and you are not attempting to find the program on TV Land, Netflix or at your local DVD emporium, then you have wandered into the wrong website by mistake.
The loyal and long-suffering roommate bought me a bunch of discs of this program as an early birthday present. Had I had the choice between these programs and a year's worth of carnality with every lipstick lesbian in Los Angeles, I would have stuck firmly with "Boston Legal." As that choice appears to not be forthcoming, I am delighted with my lot in life, even if I am still waiting for that day when I fit into the program's economic demographic.