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Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect

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I never watched The Practice before now. What enticed me was the addition of James Spader. Since Sex, Lies, and Videotape up to his recent Secretary, it’s hard not to think of Spader as a good actor who chooses very strange roles. I figured if he was being cast, then this had to be an unusual show with interesting writing and storylines. Boy, was I wrong.

To begin with, Spader’s character, Alan Shore, is creepy in a one-note sexual predator sort of way. He made a nice contrast with the rest of the washed out, dull cast, but I know I’m going to get bored of his ego and his smart comments very quickly. Then he was given a ridiculous case to work with: defending a homeless man for having kissed a young woman. He propositions the young woman and tries to bribe her to drop the case. But the potential for an interesting and unexpected outcome is ruined when the man thanks Shore for treating him with dignity and allowing him and his young daughter to swim in his pool. We are left with a shot of Shore sitting by that pool contemplating his life. Corny.

As for the other remaining old cast members, Steve Harris, Michael Badalucco, and Camryn Manheim, I couldn’t help thinking that they made The Practice one of the fattest show on television. I thought that not because I’m sizist, but because their characters were so indistinct that I needed some way to criticize them. They never acted, only reacted. As for Manheim, the show seems to believe that having her (unprofessionally) wear ten or fifteen earrings in one ear means that she’s some kind of rebel.

The writing was so poor and predictable that my mother (who I was watching with) kept finishing the characters’ sentences.

Saddling them with pointless, ripped from the headlines cases and predictable endings doesn’t help their cases much either. Stunt casting Chris O’Donnell as a Scott Peterson/Ed Norton-in-Primal Fear-character in a continuing storyline didn’t grab my attention. The woman who shoots a drug dealer and gets a Not Guilty verdict through jury nullification couldn’t be more trite.

I will, however, watch next week’s episode, with bigger and better stunt casting. Sharon Stone will play a lawyer who claims that God speaks to her, was fired from her firm, and is now suing for wrongful termination. Could be interesting, but I tend to doubt it. First, they’ve killed all the lawyers. Now it’s time to kill the writers.

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  • I, too, watched because of James Spader being part of the cast. I was disappointed, but hopeful that the writing will improve. Still, I think watching an okay show with James Spader is still better than watching a pretty good show without him.

    Or something like that.

    And yeah, those multitudinous earrings on Eleanor have got to go. I just don’t buy that a super-sharp attorney in an up-and-coming law firm would gain a lot of credibility with all the ear baggage.

    I think I’ll hang in there for another episode or two and see if things improve before giving up.

  • Oh, Gawd! Failing the Mom Test is bad. Really bad. As much as I have liked The Practice, especially in its early years, I fear everything is over but the cancellation.

    Debbie, I urge you to catch reruns when they begin or to buy videos of the original shows. What is occurring now is not the real thing. The real thing was excellent, and this is coming from someone who has worked in a big city law firm or two.

  • I looked for the previous seasons on video but I couldn’t find them.