Talk about comebacks, Sunday night's premiere episode (10pm ABC) of Boston Legal was proof positive that David E. Kelley is a master of the episodic drama. Before getting into the actors' work, maximum kudos must go to the editor who shaped the episode. It was Emmy-winning work--perfect--and it propelled the exceptionally taut, intelligent and nuanced script into an hour that felt like 10 minutes.
Of course, star James Spader was brilliant. He is an actors' actor, a minimalist who delivers character and story with the smallest facial gesture, the softest spoken line. He is mesmerizing.
And speaking of actors' actors, who turns up as a series regular but the Olympian Rene Auberjonois? Genius casting. Auberjonois, for you youngsters, is one of the great actors of our time. I will absolutely never forget his Broadway performance in City of Angels. As an elder stateman at the Boston Legal law firm, he brings gravitas and menace to his role as senior partner--one of the few actors who can dress down William Shatner and play it so the viewer feels that Shatner is truly in jeopardy.
And what of Shatner? Where is he pulling these performances from? His appearances since The Practice are on an entirely new level from his previous roles. He will not be typecast.
The law firm as den of slimebuckets is what this series is about. There are no depths to which these attorneys will refuse to dive to achieve their often smarmy ends.
One of the lawyers, Rhona Mitra (Mommy, will you buy me Rhona Mitra for Christmas?) as Tara Wilson, is assigned to come on to a rich client with whose wife Shatner is having an affair. She of course finds this repugnant, but later announces that she actually had sex with the old man. Did she? Was she kidding? I have no idea. The point is, every member of this firm is out to frag every other member, and it's devilishly delightful.
The only two who seem to share a bond are the equally unscrupulous Spader and Shatner. Wouldn't it be fun if as the season goes on, their relationship becomes more ambiguous?
Watch this show. If Kelley can keep it up week after week, this is one not to be missed.