The TV series, Boston Legal, ended this week. I started out watching it every week, but gave up on it the past couple of seasons. I figured I'd check back in for the series finale. It pretty much went out true to form...a show that could have been an amazing television drama, but instead was morphed into some kind of surreal, satirical dramedy. James Spader burst onto The Practice during the 2003-2004 final season of that show. He single-handedly took a dying show and brought it back to life, allowing it to go out in a blaze of glory. This wasn't any more evident than in the 3-episode story arc in the middle of the season during which Spader's Alan Shore defended a childhood friend, Paul Stewart, played by Patrick Dempsey, against murder charges. These three episodes, with other guest appearances by Ed Asner, Jill Clayburgh and most notably, Betty White, represented some of the best dramatic television I've ever watched. Keep in mind, this was before Grey's Anatomy, so the last thing of note that Patrick Dempsey had done was "Can't Buy Me Love." His performance here was awesome, as was Spader's...laying the groundwork for what should have been one of the most interesting characters on TV - Alan Shore. Everything about the story was dead on...right up until the final moments with Dempsey and Spader in their childhood treehouse, where, after getting Stewart acquitted of all charges, Alan Shore comes to the startling realization that his childhood friend was actually guilty. Probably the best ending to any television episode ever.
Spinning off The Practice into Boston Legal, David E. Kelley had the opportunity to explore the unbelievable emotional complexities of Spader's character. But instead, the show spiraled into a comedic mess, making a mockery out of what could have been riveting television. And the seemingly life-altering incident depicted in the above-mentioned story from The Practice was never mentioned again, despite Betty White reprising her role of Catherine Piper on Boston Legal. That character was turned into a complete and utter farce, and Alan Shore apparently got over the shocking deceit by his friend, not to mention all of his past emotional issues. What a waste.