Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Boston Legal, James Spader, David Kelley.

A long-time friend of my husband died a few weeks ago. During their last conversation friend - "Zee" - urged us to watch some episodes of Boston Legal. We'd heard of the series, which ran from 2004 to 2008, but hadn't seen any of it. We caught a couple of repeats then these, too, disappeared.

My husband decided to buy a DVD set of the full series, I suspect in memory of his friend. We've now watched Season One and are into Season Two and are finding that, as Zee promised, it's fun and over-the-top, but also intelligent, adult, enlightening and encouraging on several levels.

Having spent a good part of my working life among members of the legal profession in the UK, I easily recognise the "types" portrayed, some scarily similar to lawyers and judges I knew, back in the day. Lawyers in Boston, Britain or Bombay are, I reckon, cut from the same cloth.

The series was created and mainly written by David E. Kelley as a spin-off of an earlier series The Practice. Kelley also created and wrote LA Law - which I watched regularly back in the UK and enjoyed a lot. It's no surprise to find that David Kelley started out as a lawyer himself, he writes with wry humour, occasional farce and a certain understanding of the background atmosphere which would be difficult to do without inside knowledge.

James Spader portrays offbeat and unpredictable lawyer, Alan Shore with aplomb - well, he would, wouldn't he? Born 7 February 1960 in Boston Massachusetts at 8:02 PM (Astrodatabank). He was made for the part of Alan Shore !

Sun and Mercury in mentally oriented Aquarius, with Aquarius's modern ruler Uranus the eccentric and unpredictable planet in direct opposition from Leo to Sun. Capricorn and Aquarius are both traditionally ruled by Saturn, planet of laws, and here Saturn is found in one of its home signs, its traits likely to come through very clearly. Taking into consideration the stellium of planets in Capricorn the opposition seems to be indicating an ongoing fight or tension between what is staid, traditional, and law-abiding and that which is "out there where the buses don't run". (Accidentally there I've described the essence of Boston Legal itself in a few words.)

I have no means of knowing whether James Spader is in any way similar to the character he protrays, but he has said, in interview:
I guess I've always been drawn to anything eccentric. I'm drawn to that in friends and in life.
A reflection of his Aquarius bits!

When discussing the character of Alan Shore in the series from which Boston Legal was a spin-off, James Spader put forward his thoughts:
"I really like this guy," Mr. Spader said, sitting in a hotel room during a recent visit to New York, his words following the slightly off-meter rhythm he has employed to great effect in his characterizations.

Indeed, much of what Mr. Spader has shown on the screen is apparent in person: unexpected movements and gestures; a languidness that changes without warning to passion, marked by sudden rises in the volume of his voice. Though his hair has thinned and he has lost some of the dangerous handsomeness of his youth, he remains an actor who always seems to be trying to tweak convention.

That's certainly true of Alan Shore, a man who ignores virtually every stricture of the legal profession, but almost always in a noble cause - at least one he sees as noble. His misrepresentation in the airline case, for example, saved a colleague from being disbarred.
"I think he's endearing and appalling at the same time, at the same moment, really," Mr. Spader said. "I like him best when he's inappropriate with his appropriateness. He's the best friend you could have in the world, but he'll make your life hell at times."

I'm deliberately ignoring the rest of the cast in this post to keep it blogworthily brief. All add to the brilliance of the series: William Shatner at his farcical best; Candice Bergen and Mark Valley playing straightmen in a lunatic asylum;, Rhona Mitra, Lake Bell and assorted other attractions, not forgetting the ever wonderful Betty White. For me though, and I suspect for many others, James Spader is the show's anchor, holding it secure, safe from drifting too far into
La-la Land - or to be consistent La-la Seas. But Spader and the rest of the crew couldn't have given us the performances they did without David Kelley's brilliant writing and sharp insights.

David Kelley, creator of Boston Legal, was born on 4 April 1956 in Waterville Massachusetts (no time known).

Moon and Mercury in Aries in sextile to Spader's Sun - so there's potential for a good working relationship here. Kelley has Mars and possibly Moon in Capricorn - though if born after 2pm Moon would have moved into Aquarius. Either would blend well with his link to the law and to James Spader's chart. Interesting to note that wherever Kelley's natal Moon lay, Uranus from late Cancer would be in opposition - a kind of echo of Spader's Sun-Uranus opposition.

Kelley has said in interview:
I think this show probably, I guess, is a reflection of me a little bit, has a scream in its belly and sometimes it just feels it needs to scream.

We enjoy the subtle and not so subtle humour in Boston Legal, but I especially admire the messages and social commentary which come through with some regularity, among all the whacky irreverence and innuendo, to hit the viewer right between the eyes. Serious issues are tackled frequently: the death penalty, torture by police, mental health, gun control, destruction of the environment. Both sides of these issues are always covered, though the author's left-leaning preference is crystal clear.

The season we've just watched comes from the days of G.W. Bush's presidency, and though some of the barbed comments do relate directly to that time, the episodes do not feel dated at all, for little has really changed since then. Has it?

Most videos of clips from the show at YouTube have been removed due to "copyright claims by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation". This one has survived thus far, probably due to the way it's compiled, using material from real life to compliment a small-size screen view. This closing speech by Alan Shore is a gem, well worth watching - and saving :

I'm eagerly looking forward to watching the rest of the series now.
Thanks Zee - your name is mentioned regularly by Himself as we watch: "Ah - it's easy to see why he loved this series so much, the humor is an exact match for his!!"


anyjazz said...

It's a good post. Again, you tie things together.

And Z would be complimented.

Twilight said...

anyjazz ~ ~ I hope Z would.... and thanks. :-)

Vanilla Rose said...

Have you ever seen the film "Wolf"? In it, Spader's character describes the character played by Michelle Pfeiffer "the f*** of the decade". Clearly, Ms Pfeiffer's husband, David E Kelley, realises that sometimes actors just have to say what is in the script!

Vanilla Rose said...

Sorry. Typo! He describes her AS "the f*** of the decade".

Twilight said...

Vanilla Rose ~~~ Hi there!
No, I haven't seen "Wolf" - but intend seeking out more of James Spader's movies - that one included.

Yes - I bet they all privately have a good laugh about some of the sly comments and "in jokes" in movies, as well as in Boston Legal and elsewhere.

Twilight said...

Vanilla Rose ~~ You have an interesting blog and point of view - I'll add it to my "Other good aspects" links - and pop in from time to time. :-)

R J Adams said...

Thanks for reminding me of that speech. It had slipped my mind. Even now it can make the hairs on the back of my neck tingle. I only saw one or two episodes of 'Boston Legal' but they were very good.

Twilight said...

RJ Adams ~~~ I know! We need an "Alan Shore" in the White House!!!!

I'm sure BL is right up your street, RJ - keep an eye out for more repeats or cheap DVDs. :-)

Vanilla Rose said...

Thank you!

As a Spader fan, I recommend "sex, lies and videotape" and "Secretary". Also, I am very fond of a film called "The Stickup" which is much less famous.

Twilight said...

Vanilla Rose ~~~ Ah! Thanks for the tips, I'll look for these movies !

Vanilla Rose said...

I found my way to this blog via the James Spader Meeting Place. Spader has just finished being in the play "Race". During its run, he met many of his fans and they have all posted about how he was very obliging about posing for photographs and signing autographs. Yet at the same time, he is relatively mysterious. You know how most celebrities announce the birth of their children and we all laugh at the weird names chosen? Spader's youngest child is nearly 2, and nobody on the fan sites even knows the boy's name! It was months before it was even confirmed it was a boy.

I think it is safe to say that he shares at least some of Alan Shore's views, as he was involved with an event called "Blueprint for Accountability" last month.

Twilight said...

Vanilla Rose ~~~ Ooooh! Many thanks for that link - I''ve stashed it in my favourites file and will investigate it thoroughly later. I hadn't seen that one before.

I'd read about "Race" - didn't know it had already finished its run though. Maybe they'll go on tour with it - something to keep an eye on!

I hope he does share Shore's (and Kelley's) views - I'd be quite surprised if he didn't - although I doubt William Shatner shares Denny Crane's political leanings. ;-)

hmmm - Blueprint for Accountability eh? I'll look into that too.

Thanks again, VR!

Vanilla Rose said...

I believe that the play is still running, but with a new cast. Although Eddie Izzard, who is taking over the role Spader played is not only a fellow Aquarian but even has the same birthday!

It is sad that your husband's friend died, but he did leave him with some really good advice.

Twilight said...

Vanilla Rose ~~ Oh goodness! That is interesting! Same birthday with 2 years difference. Thinking about Eddie Izzard, yes, I can see a similarity in the way he stands to that of Spader as Alan Shore - very erect, head slightly tipped back. I don't know whether that's Spader's natural stance though.

Yes - Boston Legal is giving us endless pleasure, just started on season 3. And I got a used dvd of Stick Up yesterday too. :-)

Vanilla Rose said...

On the subject of heavenly bodies (!) and extra-terrestial events, James Spader has starred in "Stargate" (I liked it apart from the fighting, but that was a big chunk), "Alien Hunter" (quite good), "Supernova" (I liked it, critics did not) and also the obscure TV pilot "Starcrossed" (interesting, although not great acting from him).

Twilight said...

Vanilla Rose ~~~ ah yes - I saw Stargate - the original TV pilot and the movie - like it a lot but didn't like, as much, what I saw of the series which followed on TV, especially the later episodes. I kind of remember James as Daniel (?) - the one with spectacles. He was always my favourite character -even back then when I didn't know the actor at all. :-)

I wasn't aware of any of the over films you list thanks for that info - they will go onto my "to seek out" list at once. Good, bad or indifferent, sci-fi always intrigues me. :-)

Vanilla Rose said...

We finally found out the name of the child, who had reached the age of 3 and nearly a half before his name got revealed on Twitter.

Twilight said...

Vanilla Rose ~~ Is it an unusual name?