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TV Review: Boston Legal – “Angel of Death”

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It's the start of a new year. What better way to kick things off than with Alan Shore (James Spader) back in the courtroom? After being summoned by Shirley Schmidt (Candice Bergen), Alan hops on a plane to New Orleans. A doctor is being accused of murder after she allegedly euthanized hospital patients in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Along with Denny Crane (William Shatner) and Vanessa Walker (Nia Long, Third Watch), a member of the New York bureau, Alan does his best to defend what seems indefensible. According to the doctor, she was merely trying to alleviate suffering. Since these people would probably have died anyway, this seemed like the most humane thing to do. The victims' families do not agree, hence the trial. For all involved, the case is important. While the two younger attorneys try to prevent a conviction, Denny gets into his usual mischief by partying and having a sleepover.

Back at the firm, Jeffrey Coho (Craig Bierko) tells Denise Bauer (Julie Bowen) one of his New Year's resolutions is to go out with her. He thinks she needs to move on after the death of her fiance. She promises to think about it. Denise doesn't like Jeffrey, but not being in a relationship seems problematic for her. When Denise tells Shirley about Jeffrey's offer, an idea is quickly formed. Shirley finds Brad Chase (Mark Valley) and mentions the 'rumor' about Denise and Jeffrey. In her usual direct fashion, she suggests Brad should not wait too long if he wants to get re-involved with Denise.

Brad and Denise decide to be "friends with benefits", an agreement to have casual sex. What Brad doesn't know is that Denise also made the same arrangement with Jeffrey.

A potential complication arises when Paul Lewiston (Rene Auberjonois) overhears Denise making the deal with Jeffrey. Paul finds Shirley and inquires about the meaning of "friends with benefits". She tells him, and he wonders aloud if Jeffrey being partner and Denise an associate causes concern. She says they should stay out of it since Jeffrey and Denise are consenting adults. This answer leaves out Shirley's involvement. Paul asks if Shirley would ever consider the arrangement. She says no, but asks if he would. He says no. Now there's a mental image for you…

Claire Simms (Constance Zimmer) has a case of her own. She finds Clarence (Gary Anthony Williams), her cross-dressing assistant, looking up Title IX lawsuits. He had a gym membership for seven years as Clarice, and was attired accordingly. Once he went as himself, he was kicked out. Claire does her best to help, but the gym manager doesn't budge. In a heart-to-heart talk, Claire thinks the reason Clarence went as a man was to ask the female manager out. He goes back to the negotiating table and makes his deal: he drops the lawsuit if she will have dinner with him. She agrees.

Down in New Orleans, Alan tries wrapping his mind around the knotty mess his client has gotten into. Luckily, the closing argument is all his. He points out his client stayed with patients rather than evacuate, and she was their only caregiver. People died, but at least they died in peaceful slumber. While the prosecutor was good, Alan was better. As Denny says, Mr. Shore continues his undefeated record.

Vanessa tells Alan and Denny she has been offered a position in the Boston firm. Denny asks if she plans to take it, and she replies she is considering the possibility. In private, Denny tells Alan he likes the woman and wonders if he has a chance with her.

This wasn't a bad start to the new year. Changing locales for this show has provided for strong scripts ("BL/LA", "Death Be Not Proud"). I will point out no attorney tends to win all the time like Alan does. Yes, he has lost in certain legal respects, but never a verdict. Surely he has to sometime. While he took the second chair position this time, Vanessa had enough sense to request that he make the closing argument. If Vanessa transfers in, I suspect it might lead to Denise's departure. Julie Bowen is pregnant, although not far enough along to show. She could stand to leave her office more. Or, Vanessa's arrival in Boston could signal someone else's transfer.

Speaking of new hires, the diversity on this show could use some adjustment. While there have been many capable women, for some bizarre reason the only ethnicity seems to be African American. Bring in an actor such as Esai Morales or Benjamin Bratt, and problem solved. How about the star of Ugly Betty? She's on this network, as I recall. The Denise-Brad-Jeffrey triangle is getting old. By having Shirley involved, fireworks are bound to occur. Clarence is shaky, but his nerves don't exactly make sense for someone who passed the bar. Denny and Vanessa are interesting to watch, much better than Bethany.

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