Review for LA Law: Season 3
Teri Hatcher naked! There’s your selling point for you, most likely to push those wavering male fans of 80’s television over the edge and into shelling out for this latest season of LA Law. Revelation’s initial schedule for LA Law was daunting to say the least, with new season boxsets set for release once every two months or less. Thankfully for my sanity, that’s been forgotten in favour of a much more relaxed release schedule of around one every three or four months. September sees the release of volume 3, the next 19 episodes of LA Law, and it’s a show best appreciated with a brief hiatus between seasons, just as it was when it was first broadcast. After all, absence does make the heart grow fonder, and I find once again that watching the first episode of a new season is like getting to know all these old friends over again.
LA Law follows the trials and tribulations of a firm of lawyers, McKenzie, Brackman, Chaney & Kuzak. The cases that they pursue vary from the meaningful to the trivial, the personal to the whimsical, covering all aspect of law from criminal to civil, divorce to tax, corporate to entertainment. They have a diverse portfolio of lawyers in their ranks, ranging from the eager and idealistic defenders of justice, to the cynical mercenaries, and of course the occasional lawyer that has harassed clients quoting from Shakespeare. These varied personalities don’t always get along in the boardroom, but they’re always sure to make an impact in the courtroom!
Season 3 of LA Law is presented by Revelation Films across 5 discs, totalling 19 episodes, and this season sees Grace have a crisis of conscience, Anne and Stuart look to start a family, Abby leave the firm and start a legal practice on her own, Roxanne marry the most banal man on the planet, and Michael hit a slump.
1. Hey, Lick Me Over
2. The Son Also Rises
3. Romancing the Drone
5. The Princess and the Pee
6. Dummy Dearest
7. To Live and Diet in L.A.
8. I’m in the Nude for Love
10. The Plane Mutiny
11. Izzy Ackerman Or Is He Not
12. The Accidental Jurist
13. Barstow Bound
14. Leave It To Geezer
15. The Unbelievable Lightness of Boring
16. His Suit is Hirsute
17. America the Beautiful
18. Urine Trouble Now
19. Consumed Innocent
LA Law Season 3 gets a similar 4:3 transfer to the previous season. It’s an NTSC-PAL conversion, from the video tape era of US television, but the image is clear enough throughout, without any obvious flaw, artefact or glitch. You get to see all those shiny eighties power suits in all their designer label glory.
Unfortunately it’s a step backwards for the audio, as we go back to the singularity of a DD 2.0 mono English track. LA Law is a strong dialogue based piece, so the dynamism of a stereo track isn’t all that necessary, but once it’s gone, you do miss it. There are no glitches this time around however, and the tape hiss and lack of fidelity of season 1 isn’t an issue here at least. That said, the dialogue is clear throughout, so only the hearing impaired (or the insomniac nighthawks who watch TV when their neighbours are sleeping) will lament the absence of subtitles.
Actually, I was a little hasty about the no glitches statement, as I did notice at about 15 minutes into episode 6, the audio drifted out of sync for about one minute.
Before I get cursed for false advertising, it’s one scene in the ‘I’m in the Nude for Love’ episode, a show where Michael defends a nudist colony from a puritanical neighbourhood, and it’s discreetly framed to the point it could be a scene from an Austin Powers movie. Thank the Lord for the invention of the angle poise lamp. Putting Teri Hatcher to one side however, I’m pleased to say that season 3 of LA Law offers more of the same, which if you are a fan of the quirky legal procedural will come as no surprise. It became clear to me early on that LA Law really came to the screen fully formed, with its engaging characterisations and sharp writing in play from the off, and that quality rarely varies during the series run. Season 3 delivers the engaging character drama, the light soap, the occasionally absurd comedy, all in its inimitable way. Once again, the legal issues addressed in the show vary from the topical to the emotive, the trivial to the comical, and once again I was glued to the screen for every minute of it.
Emotive issues like the right to life, unethical prosecutors, voting rights, gun control, brokered adoption, gay rights, corrupt politicians, and mistreatment of the homeless are addressed in this season. There’s also proof that health insurance was a major issue in the US even as back far as the mid-eighties. The final episode of the season is one that gives me a whole lot of vicarious pleasure, one that sees the prosecution of a talk show host who incites his audience and guests to violence. Having been sickened on the few occasions that I’ve been unable to avoid Jeremy Kyle, it’s a wholly pleasant experience to see such bear baiting finally get the prosecution it deserves. If only life would imitate art...
Of course there is the trivial, with a couple of pet owners suing each other when one pet eats the other, an old Motown group suing their replacements, and having to prove who’s most deserving of the name by performing in court, the gang of OAP bank robbers represented by an equally geriatric lawyer, the hunt for a missing head after a botched funeral, the aforementioned Teri Hatcher incident, a ventriloquist’s dummy sued for being obnoxious, a son suing his father for slapping him, and the man who licks women’s ears...
The character arcs through the season also are pretty interesting, although the Grace Michael romance doesn’t quite hit centre stage this time. There’s a lot more focus on Anne and Stuart’s attempt to start a family, although it’s all compressed into an unrealistic timeframe. Less than a year goes between trying, to fertility treatment to adoption to buying a baby like Madonna, but if you can accept that, it makes for entertaining and poignant viewing. There’s a lot more fun in the tale of Roxanne’s marriage to the dull and annoying David, and there’s almost a spin-off series within the series called The Adventures of Abby Perkins, as she leaves the firm to start her own practice.
She goes straight to this independent venture, and gets straight into trouble when she shoots a client in self defence. It’s an inauspicious start to this arc, as it isn’t handled all that well, with the shooting brushed under the carpet when it could have been a very promising courtroom drama. But then she gets involved with the cop who helped her, and then in her practice she starts representing the wrong kind of client, the kind with disposable money, lots of employees that need legal representation, and a business distributing white powdery substances. It’s a trying year for Abby Perkins, but the character growth is evident, and the person that she is at the end of the season is a lot more confident and forthright as a lawyer.
There are other character arcs as well, but I was surprised this time to find that Douglas Brackman is rapidly becoming my favourite character. He’s the mercenary lawyer for whom the bottom line is the final line, and who sees dollar signs before all other considerations. Except that he really isn’t. It turns out that while he does lean towards the financial side of things, it’s also a role that he plays both as office manager and in his position in the firm. He realises that he plays the role too well when he learns what the other partners think of him, forcing him to address those preconceptions. We also learn just how indispensable that mercenary role is to the company when he resigns as office manager and leaves it for someone else to do. But we also see that there is a limit to Doug Brackman’s avarice, and that there is a line that he will not cross, that there are some people who he values more than money. It’s my favourite moment in this series when he stands up for someone when it means losing a very lucrative account, and we learn just how firm his principles are. At that moment Doug Brackman becomes a hero, a flawed, occasionally prejudiced, often short sighted hero, but a hero nonetheless.
As usual, it’s also worth keeping an eye out for the guest stars, those veteran actors and those who would go on to become stars later on, and in this season you’ll see Pamela Reed, Bernie Casey, Glenn Plummer, Teri Hatcher, the return of James Earl Jones, JT Walsh, and Amanda Plummer (as well as three future Deep Space Nine regulars). Another odd thing that I noticed was that the recaps at the start of each episode occasionally contained footage that wasn’t in the previous episodes. The run time for each episode is pretty constant at 48 minutes, so it doesn’t seem like it’s missing footage. My guess is that they found that a line or two of dialogue in footage from the cutting room floor did a better job of recapping a storyline than anything in the aired shows.
LA Law really doesn’t need any recommendation at this point. It’s a classic television series that has aged astonishingly well. If you’ve bought the first two seasons, then buying this third one is a no-brainer.