Boston Legal is a legal dramedy series than ran on ABC from 2004 to 2008. It was to the Bunny-Ears Lawyer trope what House is to Dr. Jerk. The series starts as a senior partner at the firm goes completely insane and has to be hauled off to a sanitarium — and the rest of the staff aren't models of mental wellness, either. They include a renowned trial lawyer in the early stages of Alzheimer's (affectionately referred to as Mad Cow Disease by him and the rest of the firm), several lawyers suffering from everything from extreme shyness to Asperger Syndrome, and the lead, who is merely lecherous and corrupt (although he, too, suffers from occasional mental issues). Together they take on cases that are almost as odd as they are.
Created by David E. Kelley. Technically a Spin-Off from The Practice, with which it shares Alan Shore, Denny Crane, a few female supporting roles who were victims of Chuck Cunningham Syndrome or otherwise Put on a Bus, and virtually nothing else. It ran for a total of 101 episodes in five seasons.
Boston Legal provides examples of:
- Accuse the Witness
- Jeffrey Coho takes this Up to Eleven during his big trial. He accuses three separate witnesses of being the murderer, including the husband and the neighbor of the victim. Lastly, he accuses the mother of a defendant of being the real murderer of the defendant's lover, in order to get the son acquitted. While Jeffrey thinks their story of the mother being in an incestuous relationship with her son and having killed out of jealousy is just a cover story, it's actually true.
- Alan does this in an overly melodramatic and obviously insincere manner during another trial, and tries to excuse it to the judge by saying he had to do something to distract the jury from the witness's damaging testimony.
- This is played straight in another episode where Katie Lloyd asks the husband of the victim if he was the murderer.
- Subverted in yet another episode, where Alan and Denny separately represent two sons who are both accused of killing their father. They secretly agree to have both the boys accuse the other one of being the murderer while on the stand, while pretending that they each pulled this trick on the other. The jury can't decide if it was one boy or the other, or if it was both boys, or someone else entirely, creating reasonable doubt.
- Activist Fundamentalist Antics: One episode had two religious groups suing each other for blasphemy-related charges.
- Adrenaline Time: Done for transitions between scenes, usually showing one character dramatically walking to the next scene. Also appears in the intros.
- Amoral Attorney: Inverted in Alan Shore (he's more than happy, eager even, to bend or break legal ethics to uphold his own moral ones).
- And Starring: James Spader leads off, Candice Bergen gets the "with" and William Shatner brings up the rear with the "and."
- Aroused by Their Voice: Shirley can get Denny hot and bothered just by whispering his name.
- Asshole Victim: Used sometimes, such as when Catherine Piper kills Bernard, who gloats about his two murders making him feel godlike, or when a man who used his money to get him skilled lawyers who engineered a not guilty plea is killed by his victim's mother.
- Let's not forget the AIDS-infected criminal who raped and murdered a little girl, then requested Denny Crane be his lawyer. Denny shot him in both kneecaps, then advised him to get another lawyer.
- Author Tract: Especially in the later years, many cases involved the firm getting involved in political issues and Alan Shore would invariably deliver a closing argument in the author's voice. Lampshaded in "Selling Sickness":Judge Weldon: Counsel, what are you doing?
Alan: [standing on crate] Getting on my soapbox, Your Honor, I do it once a week.
- Backdoor Pilot: The final season of The Practice.
- Bathos: The Series. For just one example, Denny Crane presenting an articulate, rational, and reasonable argument against gun control... while dressed as a revolutionary war soldier with Yankee Doodle playing in the background.
- Badass Boast: Alan Shore delivers quite a few of these throughout the series.Lawyer: The law is on our side, Mister Shore. Tragedies happen every day.
Alan: Yes, and you're about to experience one firsthand. See you in court.
Chairman: Mister Shore, our school has been sued several times. Never successfully.
Alan: You know what they say, Lester. You never forget your first time.
- Berserk Button: As far as CP&S is concerned - Shirley. As far as Shirley herself is concerned... well, don't make fun of/attempt to fire Denny Crane. Just... don't.
- Bittersweet Ending: A pretty deep and utterly inconclusive Twist Ending, in fact. Almost surprising considering the tone of the rest of the show. Carl and Shirley get married... but so do Alan and Denny, so that Denny's fortune would be preserved in Alan. Denny's case to get the experimental Alzheimer's medicine is appealed to the Supreme Court where he meets his hero Justice Scalia and wins his case... But in the midst of all this a Chinese international company buys out Crane, Poole, and Schmidt, then the company won a lawsuit when Shirley sued on the grounds that the Chinese have no right to buy a law firm. They put the litigations department under watch, especially Alan. And they took Denny's name off the firm and renamed the firm Chang, Poole, and Schmidt.
- Also, a sad example of Science Marches On, since the promising new experimental Alzheimer's drug Alan secured for Denny later turned out to be ineffective in real life and was discontinued.
- Black Widow: The firm once defended a woman who married for money whose husband turned up dead. It's left ambiguous whether or not she actually killed him.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Repeatedly done, mainly with Denny and Alan, who like to "pretend" their life is a TV series. The examples are numerous; Denny toasting to next season and Alan hoping it's on the same night, a character telling Alan not to fall for a woman because "she's only a guest star", Alan having a conversation with Chelina (played by Kerry Washington) about the last time they saw each other being after "you were moved to Tuesdays", "you left to do movies" and "here we are, with old footage", Denny telling two new arrivals that "if they were new regulars they would have gotten here for the season premiere", welcoming them to "Boston Legal" and saying "Cue the music", and Carl openly saying "The only show on television with an average cast over 50 is Bo...No, I can't say it. That would break the, ehrm, wall."
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: The Trope Namer is Alan Shore, but almost the entire cast qualify, save one of the interns that showed up for a few months who didn't have any quirks. Odo was The Only Sane Man. And Brad is The Comically Serious.
- Canada, Eh?: Denny Crane, eh?
- Catchphrase: Denny Crane. He says his own name often enough for it to be considered such.Denny Crane: Denny Crane!
Shirley: That's not a defense!
- Character Filibuster:
- Oh, so many times. Partially justified in that they're lawyers and it's their job to give long speeches, but more often than not their closings had only a tangential relationship to the case at hand. Alan Shore is basically the epitome of this trope. It's a trick that legendary civil libertarian lawyer Clarence Darrow used to employ. No one since Darrow has ever come close to doing it right... Except the fictional Alan Shore.
- A father once pulled a gun on Alan at work after Alan agreed to represent the guy's ex-wife in a custody battle.
- The son of a woman whose accused murderer was cleared by Denny Crane and his father once took Denny Crane and much of the rest of the supporting cast hostage in order to stage the trial again.
- Chubby Chaser: Marlene Stanger. Androgy-Woman Era Sally Heep. Judge Gloria Weldon. That weird middle-aged chick they called 'The Beav' for some reason. Most of the female audience members...season three on.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Many characters. The only characters that aren't this or put on a bus are Alan Shore, Denny Crane, Shirley Schmidt, Carl Sack, Jerry Espensen, and Katie Lloyd.
- The Comically Serious:
- Shirley Schmidt is comparatively strait-laced compared to most of the loons on this show, even though her entrance into the series in an innuendo-laden discussion with Alan Shore is something of a Funny Moment for both of them. She's hilarious in the office, but in public she's the serious partner.
- Paul Lewiston is almost entirely devoid of a sense of humour.
- Carl Sack gets brought on board by Shirley to be this to the rest of the firm.
- Deadpan Snarker: Pretty much everybody, but Shirley Schmidt and,arguably, Paul Lewiston are reigning King and Queen of this trope.
- Demoted to Extra: Sally Heep (appearing in two season 3 episodes), Paul Lewiston (after season 3), Brad Chase (appearing once after season 3), Denise Bauer (appearing once in season 5).
- Downer Ending: A lot of the time, especially any time they win when the client was a dick (too many examples to specify) and when they lose and the client wasn't a dick (the season one ending, when they fought valiantly to get a guy off death row and lost. The season ended with his execution).
- "Down Here!" Shot: Recurring character Attorney Bethany Horowitz is a dwarf (played by actress Meredith Eaton, who is 4 feet tall), and there are a few scenes where Denny Crane (who lusts after her) is talking about her, and then the camera pans down and he discovers she's standing right next to him — and not pleased.
- End-of-Series Awareness: The show is absolutely relentless about this.
- Even the Girls Want Her: In an episode Jerry is sued for sexual harassment, and Marlena sees her come down the hallway, the camera fixes on Rachelle Lefevre's face and Marlena is slackjawed.Marlena: Look at her! She's gorgeous!
- Evolving Credits: The producers listened keenly to fans reactions to certain characters and would routinely make full-time cast members out of Breakout Characters and write off perceived Creator's Pets and Scrappys.
- Flanderization: In the last season of The Practice and the first season of Boston Legal, Alan was far more amoral and willing to bend laws for moral reasons. Denny was an eccentric but otherwise brilliant attorney who had occasional problems with Alzheimer's (bad enough to forget the facts of a case, good enough to engineer a mistrial as a result). By the second season Alan was becoming a lot less amoral, more like a wise-cracking moral crusader, who frequently argued cases from a perspective of Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!, while Denny was becoming so incompetent that the other partners would never let him work on a case for anything other than appearances.
- Friends with Benefits: Denise attempts to maintain a friends-with-benefits arrangement with both Brad and Jeffrey simultaneously, without either of them knowing about the other.
- Frivolous Lawsuit: These seem to make up about half of Crane, Poole, and Schmidt's cases.
- From the Ashes: Technically it sort of picks up where The Practice leaves off. To elaborate, The Practice ended with Alan joining Crane, Poole and Schmidt. Boston Legal begins with Alan having settled in for what must be a year (if you go by Alan's claim to have known Denny for six years in the series finale). The first season contains perhaps the most references to things that happened to Alan on The Practice, given that there were more carry-over characters like Tara and Sally and Catherine Piper, than there were in later seasons.
- Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?: Denny.Denny: [to Alan, as he fixes Denny's tie] I wish you and I were getting married. That's you and I. Both of us. To others... I'm not gay.
Alan: I heard you the first Freudian slip.
- Head-Tiltingly Kinky: Alan does this as he watches Denny and Bev dancing at their wedding reception.
- Heroic BSoD: Alan in Season 5, after he finds out that an ex-girlfriend totally played him in order to keep her husband out of jail for first-degree murder.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Alan and Denny, as they state themselves, repeatedly.Denny: Alan, the thing you have to realize, and someday you will, is a person only has one true love in his life. Like it or not, your true love is me. We may not have sex, but ours is an affair of the heart. And we do spoon well.
- Homoerotic Subtext: Alan and Denny. At the end of the show, they make it legal.
- Hypocrite: Denny seems to get upset when Donny turns his back on him after find out that he's not really Denny's boy, whereas Denny basically did exactly the same thing years ago, after finding out Donny wasn't his son.
- Invincible Hero: Discussed by Alan in one episode.Alan: Do we win too much? Are we losing all suspense?
- I Won't Say I'm Guilty: Nearly every innocent client the firm represents says this at one point.
- Just Friends: Katie and Jerry deal with this, complete with Last Minute Hookup.
- Kick the Dog:
- Denny shot a homeless guy with a paintball gun and gloated about it on Larry King!
- Alan Shore's abuse of Jerry's Asperger's Syndrome in "The Good Lawyer" (which Alan later regretted).
- The Killer Becomes the Killed:
- Patrice Kelly's daughter was murdered by a man who got off on not guilty on grounds of temporary insanity because he had skilled lawyers. So, she goes to Alan Shore to announce that she's going to kill the man and wants to be found not guilty by reason of temporary insanity.
- Catherine kills Bernard, who killed his mother and neighbor.
- Large Ham: Denny Crane. He's so much of a Large Ham that he makes the entire World of Ham look perfectly normal.
- Last Minute Hookup: Played with (to say the least) with Alan/Denny, and played straight with Jerry/Katie + a Sealed with a Kiss in the last 5 minutes of the final episode.
- Lighter and Softer: Than its parent show, The Practice. Much lighter. This is down to differing genres. The Practice was a straight drama. Boston Legal is a comedy-drama.
- Like an Old Married Couple: Denny and Alan, of course.
- Lost Episode: The end of the first season was pre-empted to allow Grey's Anatomy to establish itself. As a result some of those episodes were cut, and the production team used the footage to create new episodes.
- Mood Whiplash:
- One moment they'll joke about Alzheimer's, then the next it will suddenly be a serious issue. For a supposed comedy show, it's disturbingly dark to have the first series finale end with the sounds of a man gasping and struggling for his life as he's about to be executed while the credits roll.
- Denise is enjoying the Mariarachi band that's wandered into her corridor (hey, it's Crane, Poole and Schmidt!) until suddenly she realizes why it's there. Her fiancee Daniel Post has died
- Nice Hat: Not necessarily always a hat, but Alan is particularly fond of wearing strange things on his head. Ornaments (that light up, no less), mistletoe, wigs, coonskin caps Bunny ears
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Gracie Jane is a thinly-disguised Nancy Grace, with all the mannerism that it carries.
- No Fourth Wall:
- Denny Crane can identify guest characters and season finales, and isn't shy about discussing them. Characters talk obliquely of getting their own spin-offs. A heated argument between two characters regarding the merits of Obama and McCain was on an episode that aired the day before Election Day.
- Heck, people have the show's theme song as cell phone ringtones. And in one of the final episodes someone sues the Network for not having television programing with older casts.Carl: You know, the only show unafraid to have its stars over 50 is Bo... Gee, I can't say it. [gesturing toward the cameras and the audience] It would, um, break the wall.
- And, from the finale:Alan: It'll be great!
Denny: Like jumping a shark!
- Another time, when an extra opens their mouth to support a one-off character:Alan: You're an extra. You don't get to talk.
- And, of course:
- The Theme Music Power-Up gets this treatment a number of times- when Shirley hires Jerry, he mentions that he has a favourite song he hums when happy. After prompting from Shirley, he proceeds to hum and sing along with the theme for the entire duration of the opening credits, much to Shirley's bemusement.
- And again when Alan and Denny go to LA, and Denny proceeds to play the first few bars of the theme with a kazoo.
- One episode ends with Denny and Alan mentioning the show being moved to a different time slot. At the beginning of the following episode, Denny, Carl, Clarence, and Whitney are discussing the schedule change and the staff positions responsible in depth.
- Not So Different: Many sources are quick to point out that Alan and Denny are best friends despite being so ideologically different. While it is true that they are on opposite sides of the political spectrum, the reason that they are such great friends is down to the fact that, politics and personal interests aside, they are very similar personality wise, particularly when it comes to women.
- Off on a Technicality: Claire gets one of her clients off by claiming that while he took someone else's cell phone, and while he didn't give it back when he realized it wasn't his, he didn't have the intent to steal the phone at the moment he took it from his victim - he just thought it was his own phone.
- Once an Episode: At the end of every episode, Alan and Denny sit out on a balcony and talk. This only gradually became a thing. The first season is noted for its Early Installment Weirdness in that the episodes do not often end with a balcony scene.
- One of Our Own: Alan frequently has to help Denny out of some legal trouble, or else help him to sue when Denny feels he's been wronged. Conversely Alan occasionally finds himself in legal trouble, which results in Denny having to back him up.
- Only Sane Man: Shirley Schmidt, Paul Lewiston, and Carl Sack. To a lesser extent, Denise Bauer, Brad Chase, and Claire Simms. Really, it's more like Denny Crane and Alan Shore are the Only Insane Men. (They more than make up for it, however.)
- Oscar Bait: Amazingly parodied and lampshaded. Denny talks about how he likes to pretend "that everything I'm doing is on television" and calls an abortion case bad television. Alan tells him to "just think of this as our Emmy episode." Denny Crane even says at one point that he's won an Emmy. Note that this is Denny Crane (a lawyer) saying this!
- Overcrank: Usually occurs partway into a character walking to the next scene. Everything starts off normal, then as they round the corner, everything slows to increase the drama.
- Overly Long Gag: Any time Donny Crane and Denny Crane meet."Donny Crane."
- The Perfectionist: Denny has never lost a case. Nowadays he only takes cases he thinks it's a lock to win, and/or takes second chair in cases so if his side does lose it doesn't count for his stats.
- Practice Kiss: Denise gives Brad one of these to try to find out why all his ex-girlfriends have called him the worst kisser in the world.
- Prenup Blowup: Ivan Tiggs (Tom Selleck) was trying to rekindle a pairing with Shirley, though he was a newlywed. The new bride was suspicious of her husband despite his assurances that he was faithful. In a Moment of Awesome, Shirley suggested a "Post-Nuptual" agreement, whereby he loses everything if he cheats. Given his assurances of fidelity from just a moment ago, he should be eager to sign, right?!?
- Promotion to Opening Titles: At least a few, but arguably Jerry Espenson is the most notable, receiving a thorough introduction and fleshing out in seasons 2&3 before becoming a fully-fledged cast member in season 4.
- The Rain Man: Jerry Espenson, the brilliant attorney with Asperger's Syndrome.
- Refuge in Audacity: Constantly. Did I mention the time the firm represented Nantucket in its quest to obtain a nuclear weapon?
- Revolving Door Casting: Over the course of only five seasons they experimented with 19 main characters, of which only 7 made it to the series finale. (Alan, Denny, Shirley, Katie, Jerry, Carl, Paulnote ) The only characters in the premiere and the finale, in a show with five seasons, are Alan and Denny.
- Running Gag: Denny referring to his Alzheimer's as "mad cow."
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Denny Crane (as per the quote at the top of the page). Also Daniel Post, who uses his money to manipulate cancer studies to his benefit.
- "Shaggy Dog" Story / Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The case of Joseph Washington. Katie and Jerry get him off the hook for a murder he didn't commit and the DA is lawful enough to then immediately proceed a lead that surfaced during the trial. Then, it turns out that the community he tried to join shuns him due to a prior (false) rape conviction. They get the victim to recant the statement and he's off the hook again, but the community still won't accept him and ask him to leave. And then, he's murdered.
- Sinister Minister: Standouts include such Smug Snakes as Reverend Donald Diddum (the "Think on it, pray on it" guy with the fetish for used panties), and Father Ryan, who "cloaks himself in canon law" to shield a pedophile kidnapper who confessed to him.
- Smug Snake: On a show about amoral, high-powered lawyers? I'm shocked.
- Spin-Off: Of The Practice, although you'd be forgiven for not noticing. Part of what distinguishes the two is the fact that none of the Practice characters made any guest appearances. While this is arguably justified in that every non-female member of Young, Frutt and Berluti hated Alan by the end of the Practice, David E. Kelley noticeably opened the door for Eugene to appear on Boston Legal as a judge, which he never did.
- Split Personality: As with so many subjects, Boston Legal managed to both lampoon the situation while also addressing the serious side. Clarice and Clarence were often treated as this in jest at first- on several occasions Denny Crane appeared to be confused about why the lovely legal assistant kept having her brother substitute for her, for instance. It was gradually revealed, however, that Clarice was an oddly accurate portrayal of a mild form of dissociative disorder in which a person creates an alternate personality facade to cope with anxiety or trauma. Clarence was too scared to stand up for himself or speak in public, but Clarice the Sassy Black Woman had no such issues. The two gradually came to a Split-Personality Merge as Clarence came to embrace his inner sassy black lady without having to be a sassy black lady.
- Strawman Political:
- Alan Shore very frequently goes up against broad conservative caricatures, and always wins. Oddly, he himself resembles the conservative straw man of a corrupt liberal trial lawyer.
- Denny Crane is a straw man political caricature of a conservative gun nut, although this did allow him to save the day a few times. Keeping guns in your office seems so much less crazy when you just used them to shoot the man about to kill your friends.
- The show is more than self-aware enough to strawman consciously, and the real beauty of it is its use of the basic fact that a lawyer is supposed to advocate for his client: Alan is a liberal, but he's not always on the liberal side of the case, and Brad, a conservative, passionately defends a number of liberal causes. Denny, for his part, is very good at avoiding cases he doesn't want, up to and including shooting his client.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute:
- Boston Legal's Lori Colson (played by Monica Potter) to The Practice's Hannah Rose (played by Rebecca De Mornay). Both were blonde, attractive attorneys who held positions of responsibility within Crane, Poole & Schmidt. Both were attracted to Alan but repelled by him ethically. The only real difference is that Hannah Rose was more aggressive than Lori Colson.
- Paul Lewiston was basically Matthew Billings' substitute. While very different looks and personality wise, their role was the same. Both characters acted as traffic cop around the firm, keeping Denny in order. The biggest difference was that Billings believed in Denny's competence, whereas Paul does everything he can to make sure Denny doesn't take cases.
- Take That!: Texas, Utah, Fox News, the New York Yankees, Scientology, liberals, conservatives, the polically neutral, the list goes on...
- Theme Tune Cameo: Jerry Espenson sings along with the theme song during the opening credits of one episode. Denny Crane plays it on a kazoo to usher in a different episode. Not just a kazoo, a trombone kazoo.
- Third-Person Person: Denny full-names himself on a regular basis.
- Under the Mistletoe: Boston Legal had at least 1 Christmas episode in each season, which always featured someone being kissed due to the presence of mistletoe; often as an excuse for Alan or Denny to kiss Shirley or another character who had previously rejected their advances.
- Verbal Tic: Lincoln has a particularily noticable one. He uses heavy emphasis every time he says "Shirley Schmidt" (and he says it a lot). It doesn't really help that the camera almost always zooms in on his face when he says it.
- Voice of Dramatic: James Spader's voice can make the most Anvilicious
Author Tractclosing statement incredibly easy on the ears.
- Wanting Is Better Than Having: Denny tells Alan that "it's better to want a woman you can't have than to have a woman you don't want."
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Alan Shore is terrified by clowns.
- Will They or Won't They?: Alan/Shirley, and Jerry/Katie: it looked, for a while, like Jerry and Katie wouldn't, but they do.. Alan and Shirley on the other hand, don't.
- Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: Alan after he's told "your country thanks you" by a conservative student he represented that sued his school for not allowing Fox News.