Way out of 'practice'

Telly review

Way out of 'practice'

There comes a time in everybody’s life, when one has invested so much of oneself in a television show, that it is almost impossible to give up watching it. This, despite the show crawling towards a cesspool of decadence and insipidity.

I would be exaggerating if I said that I have felt like giving up on watching The Practice after faithfully following it for six eventful seasons. However, it is indisputable that the pungent flavour of the series does start wearing away after the first couple of seasons.

I was mildly surprised to find the show airing on Indian television (Fox Crime, weekdays at 8 pm), considering the show originally aired in the US in the 90s. In times like these, where legal dramas like The Good Wife are dealing with class action suits about Bitcoin, it is a tad amusing to watch a bunch of lawyers grapple with reams of paper, pagers and the nascent stages of the concept of Internet. To add to the onus of rather lacklustre picturisation and dark shades of the characters the audience has to bear, the courtroom drama, erratic and eccentric developments in the professional and personal lives of the ensemble cast, opprobrium faced by the truculent defence attorneys and the ruthless hand of the law prove to be a bite more than one can chew.

Nevertheless, there are some facets of The Practice which make it compelling and addictive even to a quotidian mind. One particularly memorable scene involving Lindsay Dole (Kelli Williams) is during her tyro days, where her argument with the plaintiff and the judge blends humour in a manner so subtle you will not realise what it is that pleased you.

Of course, it is a given that Williams in herself is a gifted actor, what with her diction and decorous demeanour even during times of heightened emotions, she blows your mind away. The same critique, however, cannot be categorically extended to her co-stars. While Bobby Donnell (Dylan McDermott) is certainly intended to be the star of the show, he is more often than not, the nemesis of the ‘good guys, that is, the prosecutors.’ When an attorney continuously defends murderers, muggers, molesters and miscreants, the very reason behind their actions (apart from money) begins to escape the rationale of the viewer.

The camaraderie between the partners of the firm — Donnell, Young, Dole and Frutt — is itself extremely strange. One particularly upsetting episode is when Eleanor Frutt (Camryn Mannheim) physically attacks Dole in the middle of the conference room. What, one wonders, are educated lawyers at work fighting about. Rebecca Washington’s (Lisa Gay Hamilton) holier-than-thou naive image does little to mitigate the pain of watching a shady Jimmy Berluti (Michael Badalucco) helping call girls and romancing judges.

However, the introduction of George Vogelman (Michael Monks) as Eleanor’s on-off boyfriend was one of the smarter things David E Kelley managed to accomplish. Few would have expected events to turn out the way they did. Helen Gamble as the unyielding assistant district attorney turns almost inhuman when she begins making her cases personal. Richard Bay (Jason Kravits), however, salvages the courtroom and chamber scenes with his elucidation of most primal human feelings. A saving grace lies in the casting of judges who maintain a semblance of order in courtrooms as well as the show.

Despite numerous flaws in the show, there are certain colours to it which make you hang on to it for a while. The courtroom diatribes, for instance, are delivered with such eloquence and conviction that they send a shiver down your spine. It is true Kelley has put his learnings at law school to good use in penning the powerful dialogues without the legality confusing anybody. After all, Boston Legal, its spin-off, turned out to be a huge success and its crossovers with Ally McBeal did help the show’s ratings go up. However, that is no vindication for the onslaught of monotonous legal conundrums that one has to endure throughout the series. Watch it only if you can.

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