Boston Legal: Season 2 (2004)
27th February 2007
The lawyers at Crane, Poole and Schmidt have returned for yet another thrilling caseload. The series continues to follow a team of lawyers as they are confronted by moral and social issues, with Boston Legal's cases continually stretching the boundaries of the law. The resident bad boys of the firm - Senior Partner Denny Crane and the maverick attorney Alan Shore - continue to enthral as they combine unabashed sexism and political incorrectness with a passion for justice and courtroom theatrics. Whatever typecasting they may have been previously tarred with, James Spader and William Shatner prove to the world that they are not lunatics or your average galaxy hopping spacemen.
The rest of the team is also in fine form. Senior Partner Paul Lewiston juggles the firm's ethical dilemmas whilst facing a rocky reunion with his drug-addicted daughter. Founding partner Shirley Schmidt fights off advances from her soon-to-be-remarried ex-husband while Denise falls in love with a dying millionaire whilst facing threatening competition from new attorney Marlene Stanger. You may be forgiven into thinking that this is Ally McBeal over over again, but this series is socially relevant and fresher.
With season one containing the now fairly standard seventeen episodes before that make or break decision to cancel or continue, Season Two of Boston Legal is bursting at the seams with even more entertainment than the last. This season boxset consists of a full twenty-seven episodes spread over seven discs, of which they are listed below:
- The Black Widow
- Finding Nimmo
- A Whiff and a Prayer
- Men to Boys
- Witches of Mass Destruction
- Truly, Madly, Deeply
- The Ass Fat Jungle
- Gone Legal
- The Cancer Man
- Can Helping Hands
- Too Much Information
- Breast in Show
- Live Big
- ...There's Fire!
- Shock and Owww!
- Stick It
- Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
- Word Salad Days
- Ivan the Incorrigible
- Race Ipsa
- Deep End of the Poole
- Squid Pro Quo
- Spring Fever
- BL: Los Angeles
The success of Ally McBeal has obviously filtered through into Boston Legal and the production team has thrown a fair bit of weight behind this series and it shows up very well on this DVD set. The picture is bright and colourful with a high level of detail, there's an above average bit-rate and the transfer exhibits no signs of artifacting or outlining. Even the usual collection of overly compressed images have been done away with and, although we've probably more discs in the set than normal, it has been managed without the higher prices that can blight such releases. The only real shame is that the picture is full frame and not widescreen. Mind you, I guess the same print has been used as for the standard terrestrial broadcast.
With the material being created for television broadcast the sound is hardly going to give your surround system a massive workout. But then again, you wouldn't really be expecting too much in the way of surround effects, even if the opening musical score is quite a ditty of a tune. Never the less, the 192Kbps Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack makes good use of the available stereo channels and the dialogue is audible at all times.
Once you get past the increasingly annoying anti-piracy spiel, plus adverts for 24, Arrested Development, Prison Break, NYPD Blue and The History Boys, you are greeted with an animated and scored menu system where clips from the show are shown in a small window whilst the various characters jump from the background to the foreground. Each episode is easily accessible from the menu, although in yet another oversight, there is no "Play All" option meaning that if you dare to dawdle too long on the credits you'll end up with yet another copyright warning in just about every language known to man. Still, it certainly makes a nice change from the usual static and silent menus seen on so many television series DVDs these days.
Whilst there is a hefty number of episodes in the season the extras are disappointing brief and consist of two short featurettes on disc seven. Still, short or not, you can't complain too much and it certainly makes up for a total lack of extras on other Twentieth Century Fox television to DVD releases - and yes, that means you Mr. Ally McBeal producers. Although I'd never class it as an extra, both the featurettes and each of the season episodes include a number of different language subtitle tracks.
In the five minute featurette Legal Pad : The Word of Boston Legal, executive producers Janet Leahy, Bill D'Elia and David E. Kelley talk about how they go about creating the characters and the three story lines for each episode. Even though it's criminally short, it's still extremely interest viewing. The only other extra on the disc is the nine minute featurette Exhibit A : The Look of Boston Legal. In it, production designer Peter Politanoff and director of photography James Bagdonas look at the design of the office complex, other sets and the impressive backdrops whilst costume supervisors Loree Parral and Shelly Levine look at the clothing. Although not as interesting as the first featurette, it certainly highlights the amount of time and effort that goes into making the sets and costumes authentic and "chic".
I was going to have a jolly good grumble about Boston Legal being too similar to Ally McBeal. However, everything became as clear as mud, as whilst researching the programme for the review I noticed that the series was created by the one and only David Kelley - the same guy who created Ally McBeal and who was behind The Practice - the series that spawned Boston Legal. Even the series is filmed in the same city - although the name in the title did kind of give the game away somewhat. So, with all of that, it soon brought the gathering steam of a grumble - and half of the review - to a crashing and bruising end.
Whilst there have been many successful law based television series over the years (with most of them written by David Kelley), what makes Boston Legal stand out more than most is the absolutely massive range of guest stars. Not only does the series line up contain established stars such as James Spader and a rather chubby William Shatner - two guys hardly scraping a living - but you've the likes of Tom Selleck, Robert Wagner, Jeri Ryan, Leslie Jordan, Betty White, Michael J. Fox, Ed Begley Jr, Parker Posey, Freddie Prinze Jr, Adam Arkin and Shelley Berman making appearances too. It has almost become a Simponesque style series where you're not someone until you've been seen on the latest hip and trendy programme.
The acting for each and every one of the characters is top notch - with James Spader and William Shatner standing out the most - although I must admit I found it hard adjusting to seeing Shatner in a none Star Trek or TJ Hooker roll. But it doesn't stop there, as I kept on expecting to find Rene Auberjonois character from Deep Space Nine in a bucket of goo in the corner of his office. Oh well, talk about typecasting. Still, there's no escaping it, as there's plenty of references to Star Trek tucked away in the series.
Also, I guess the problem with having so many major stars in a series such as this is that they will inevitably move on to work on separate projects. Naturally, this will result in clashes in schedules, the to be expected fallings out from egos bigger than others and the eventual cancellation of the series. So, fans of Boston Legal, enjoy the series and love the DVDs whilst you can as you'll never know how long it will continue to reign and win awards.
- 5 minute featurette on the writing of Boston Legal
- 9 minute featurette on the 'look' of Boston Legal