I feel that the rest of this post is pretty much preaching to the choir. Boston Legal is already massive, but more praise never hurts.
[This post may contain nuts... and mild spoilers]
Boston Legal was created by David E. Kelley (Yeah, the man responsable for Ally McBeal - don't hold it against him!) and is essentially a follow on/spin off from The Practice. Unsuprisingly it is set in Boston and involves a legal firm. While this is hardly new ground for David, the man has honed the art of the legal show to a fine point. Boston Legal shows off his art in every way, shape and form possible.
The show literally shines with polish; it's sleek, beautiful, well edited, has blistering pacing, a punchy dialog to match, superb sets and a truely awesome and catchy theme song. A show that doesn't take itself too seriously (it almost breaks the fourth wall on several occasions.) But all of this slick, polish and shine is simply the backdrop to some star performances.
The most obvious of these are the performances from James Spader (3 Emmys for the role) and William Shatner (2!) . The show was pretty much created with them in mind and they are such an excellent pairing. James manages to play a very complex individual; Alan Shore is simultaneously arrogant and humble, hard and caring and so many more conflicting attributes in one. He's very much got a hard exterior with a soft interior and then another hard part. It's refreshing to see an actor who's so willing to perform such unlikable deeds and still be understandable.
William Shatner on the other hand plays a man with alltogether more simple motives, he's very much the true blooded American. Happiest when eating stake, shooting guns or making love to beautiful women Denny Crane is a true red American through and through...
But, this said not even Denny Crane (Denny Crane!) is a simple one dimensional character. There's a great deal of vulnerability to his character; he's a man who was once great, in many ways is still great. But he's not the man he once was, he's falling - but still trying to keep a hold of what he once was.
While Alan and Denny are, at least on the surface two very different men. Underneath it they share a great closeness, they understand and accept each other with a degree of closeness that is at times touching. Boston Legal can appear to be a show about trials and lawyers on the surface, but underneath that it's a show about friendship and loyalty. It's this aspect that keeps me coming back, like Scrubs this show can be alternately funny and touching within the space of a single scene. Shows like that are gold.
I would be amiss if I did not at least mention my favourite character in the show. Jerry Espenson (played Christian Clemenson, who won an Emmy for the role in 2006). A man with unusual habits and attributes caused by Asperger Syndrome, a disorder that I was not aware of before Boston Legal brought it to my attention. At first Jerry is seen as a joke and a problem case in the firm, but Alan comes to form a bond and friendship with the man. Something akin to a mentor relationship, but also very much based on friendship. Alan is capable of seeing past the superficial and understanding how brilliant Jerry is at practicing law. This friendship stirs up feelings of jealousy in Denny, fueling some memorable conversations between them all.
Now Boston Legal isn't perfect, it has one major flaw. Apart from Shatner, Spader and Candice (as Shirely Schmit) any member of the cast is considered disposable. They can be dumped at anytime from the show and sometimes they are dropped without even aknowledgement that they're gone. Some of these characters have been cut because they haven't been working, but others imo have been cut because the writers have failed to provide enough focus on them. The character I feel who has been mistreated worst of all is Brad Chase, Mark Valley (the actor) has only been given once real chance to show his talents. He was brilliant in that episode but has been given the short end of the stick more times than not.
For the record the Episode 'Guantanamo by Trial' contains the single greatest cold opening in the history of television. Ever. Take that fourth wall!
Watch the damn show already.