Boston Legal

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Yup, it's that kind of show.

"Any day, Denny Crane."

"You're thinking. I used to do that, but when you grow old, you realize what it's all about: Money."
Denny Crane

Boston Legal was 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 mental hospital, and the rest of the employees aren't much more stable. 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's 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.

Tropes used in Boston Legal include:
  • 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".
  • Asshole Victim
  • Audio Erotica: Shirley can get Denny hot and bothered just by whispering his name.
  • Author Tract: And how! 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.

Alan: Do we win too much? Are we losing all suspense?

  • Brother Chuck: Nearly every character besides Alan Shore, Denny Crane, and Shirley Schmidt.
  • Bunny Ears Lawyer: Almost the entire cast, save for one of the interns that showed up for a few months didn't have any quirks.Odo was The Only Sane Man. And Brad is The Comically Serious.
    • How could people forget to mention that Shore is the trope namer?
    • Literal in several cases.
  • Canada, Eh?: Denny Crane, eh?
  • Catch Phrase: 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.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl
  • 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 Crowning Moment of Funny 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 humor.
  • Courtroom Antics: Ohhh yeah.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Pretty much everybody, but Shirley Schmidt and,arguably, Paul Lewiston are reigning King and Queen of this trope.
  • Did Not Do the Research: In-universe. Paul Lewiston, when telling Shirley that they should fire Alan, mentions his last firm sued him. This case was detailed in the last-half of the The Practice's eighth season where, in fact, Alan sued them.
  • Emmy 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!
  • End of Series Awareness: The show is absolutely relentless about this.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Funny Aneurysm/Reverse Funny Aneurysm (depending on your politics): One episode airing in early 2005 was about the firm successfully defending a school district that forced science teachers to teach Intelligent Design (creationism with the serial numbers filed off) as an alternative to evolution, firing those that refused. In real life, a similar case really happened later that year, with the plaintiffs and school board using arguments essentially identical to those from the show (although at much greater length and with everyone showing their work). The school board lost so badly the movement to get ID taught in schools basically died that day. had to go into hibernation for a few years.
  • Hanging Judge: Judge Clark Brown.
  • 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.
  • Homoerotic Subtext : Alan and Denny. At the end of the show, they make it legal.
  • Insufferable Genius: Guess, just guess.
  • I Want You to Meet An Old Friend of Mine: Heather Locklear, one of William Shatner's old friends, played Denny Crane's client. Christian Clemenson, one of James Spader's old friends, played Jerry Espenson. Unfortunately the show was cancelled before Spock could agree to do an appearance.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Of everything.
  • 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.
  • Like an Old Married Couple: Denny and Alan, of course.
  • 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.
  • Motor Mouth: Alan Shore.
  • Nasty Grace: Gracie Jane.
  • 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...
  • No Fourth Wall: This show was created with none installed.
    • 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.

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!

    • My favorite would be, 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:

Denny: Welcome to Boston Legal... Cue the music! [The opening credits begin to roll inter-cut with shots of Jeffery Coho looking absolutely stupefied].

  • No Sense of Humor: Brad Chase.
  • Not Love Interest: Denny and Alan, for each other.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Denny. Crane.
  • 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.
    • Not true. In several episodes of season one they do not. They started that in Season Two.
  • Only Sane Man: Shirley Schmidt, Paul Lewiston, and Carl Sack. To a lesser extent, Denise Bauer, Brad Chase, and Claire Simms.
    • So, really, it's more like Denny Crane and Alan Shore are the Only Insane Men.
  • 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.
  • 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 he 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.
  • The Rainman: 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 6 made it to the series finale.
  • Running Gag: Denny referring to his Alzheimer's as "mad cow".
  • Sarcasm Failure: usually during the Code Silver.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Southern-Fried Genius: A Southern defense lawyer that's a sleazy non-heroic version and Alan occasionally crosses swords with him.
  • Spin-Off: Of The Practice, although you'd be forgiven for not noticing.
  • Straight Man: A trifecta -- Paul Lewiston, Brad Chase, and Shirley Schmidt.
  • 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.
  • Sympathetic Murderer
  • Take That: Texas, Fox News, the New York Yankees.
  • Theme Tune Cameo: Jerry Espenson sings along with the theme song during the opening credits of one episode. In one episode, Valerie Bertinelli appeared as a guest character, and her appearance was heralded with the theme from One Day At a Time, the show that made her a star. 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.
  • Verbal Tic: Lincoln has a particularly noticeable 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 Tract closing 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."
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Clarence/Clarice.
  • 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 according to this page, they do.
    • Alan and Shirley on the other hand, don't.
  • You Look Familiar: John Larroquette, who plays Carl Sack, earlier played Magnificent Bastard Joey Heric on The Practice, from which this show spun off.
  • 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.

Denny Crane.