The cases of a prominent Los Angeles law firm.
172 Episodes of 60 minute duration. NBC. 1986-1994
US television's on-going love affair with the legal profession hit one of its periodic high water-marks on October 3rd 1986, with the premiere on the NBC network of prolifically successful writer/producer, Steven Bochco and Terry Louise Fisher's (herself a former Deputy D.A. and producer of Cagney and Lacey), critically acclaimed, high profile, LA Law.
Once again employing the technique of presenting complexly interwoven storylines enacted by a large and talented ensemble cast which had proven highly effective on Bochco's earlier police drama, Hill Street Blue's, LA Law chronicled the eventful legal and personal lives of the successful attorney's working at the prestigious Los Angeles law firm of McKenzie, Brackman, Chaney and Kuzak.
Presided over by the respected, fatherly figure of senior partner Leland McKenzie, (veteran film and TV character actor, Richard Dysart), and with the likes of accomplished performers such as Harry Hamlin as the idealistically handsome Michael Kuzak, former Partridge Family mainstay Susan Dey as deputy D.A.(later judge)Grace Van Owen, and Corbin Bernsen's charismatic, womanising divorce lawyer, Arnie Becker, the younger attorney's tackled all manner of lucrative civil and criminal cases, although some "pro Bono" work for the poor was undertaken on occasion, primarily to help remind the viewers that, although wealthy, the partners were in the main caring, sharing, human beings.
As the season's wore on, cast members departed to be replaced seamlessly by actors of equal accomplishment, including future NYPD Blue heart-throb, Jimmy Smits, as Hispanic attorney, Victor Sifuentes, originally brought on board by the partners to meet racial quotas, but soon to prove himself valuable to both the fictional firm and the real life producers of the series as Smit's popularity with the female section of the audience asserted itself. William Finklestein, the original producer was also brought back to oversee the series and he brought with him two characters from his cancelled Civil Wars (Eli Levinson and Densie Iannello), the first time that two characters had ever transferred from one programme to another which was not a spin-off.
Foreshadowing the more outrageous courtroom antics of his own later creations, Picket Fences, The Practice, and arguably the slickest of all these productions, Ally McBeal, the arrival of David E. Kelley to the show's production staff saw the firm become involved in a number of cases which touched upon both serious concerns of the day, as well as the comically bizarre, raging from the "outing" of prominent closet gays to, unlikely as it may seem, dwarf tossing. Another of the series triumphs was the introduction and serious treatment of both the emotional and personal development of the character of the gentle kind-hearted office worker, Benny Stulwicz, which was not only one of a rare handful of examples of a mentally disabled continuing character in US television history up to that point, but also showcased a sensitive and consistently excellent performance from Larry Drake, as Benny. The series finally came to the end of its run in May of 1994, when Leland McKenzie announced his retirement from the law practice, and effectively brought an end to LA Law itself in the process.
Slickly produced, sharply written and consummately acted, LA Law memorably set the stylishly sophisticated tone for the deluge of legal series' which were destined to follow in its impressively substantial wake.
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