L.A. Law

Last updated

L.A. Law
LA Law.jpg
Genre Legal drama
Created by
Starring(See entire cast list below)
Theme music composer Mike Post
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons8
No. of episodes172 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producers
Running time
  • 60 minutes
  • (including commercials)
Production companies
Distributor20th Television
Release
Original network NBC
Picture format 35mm film (4:3)
Original releaseSeptember 15, 1986 (1986-09-15) 
May 19, 1994 (1994-05-19)
Chronology
Followed by L.A. Law: The Movie (2002)
Related shows Civil Wars

L.A. Law was an American legal drama television series that ran for eight seasons on NBC, from September 15, 1986 to May 19, 1994. [1]

Contents

Created by Steven Bochco and Terry Louise Fisher, [2] it contained many of Bochco's trademark features, including an ensemble cast, large number of parallel storylines, social drama, and off-the-wall humor. [3] It reflected the social and cultural ideologies of the 1980s and early 1990s, and many of the cases featured on the show dealt with hot-button issues such as capital punishment, abortion, racism, homophobia, sexual harassment, HIV/AIDS, and domestic violence. [4] [5] [6] The series often also reflected social tensions between the wealthy senior lawyer protagonists and their less well-paid junior staff.

In addition to its main cast, L.A. Law was also well known for featuring then relatively unknown actors and actresses in guest starring roles, who later went on to greater success in film and television including Don Cheadle, Jeffrey Tambor, Kathy Bates, David Schwimmer, Jay O. Sanders, James Avery, Gates McFadden, Bryan Cranston, CCH Pounder, Kevin Spacey, Richard Schiff, Carrie-Anne Moss, William H. Macy, Stephen Root, Christian Slater, Steve Buscemi, and Lucy Liu. Several episodes of the show also included celebrities such as Vanna White, Buddy Hackett, and Mamie Van Doren appearing as themselves in cameo roles.

The show was popular with audiences and critics, and won 15 Emmy Award throughout its run, four of which were for Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series.

Synopsis

The series was set in and around the fictional Los Angeles-based law firm McKenzie, Brackman, Chaney and Kuzak (later McKenzie, Brackman, Chaney, Kuzak, and Becker), and featured attorneys at the firm and various members of the support staff. The exteriors for the law firm were shot at the FourFortyFour South Flower building in downtown Los Angeles, which was known as the 444 Flower Building at the time. The opening credits sequence of every episode began with a close-up of a car trunk being slammed shut revealing a personalized license plate reading "LA LAW". For the first seven seasons, the model car used was a Jaguar XJ Series III; for the 8th and final season, the Jaguar was replaced with a 1993 Bentley Continental R. [7] Both cars carried registration stickers indicating the year in which each season began. Two different musical openings for the show's theme were used: a saxophone riff (as performed by David Sanborn), for episodes that were lighter in tone; and an ominous synthesizer chord, for more serious storylines.

Cast and characters

The show's original ensemble cast:

CharacterActorOccupationSeasons
12345678Film
Leland McKenzie Richard Dysart Senior Partner Main
Douglas Brackman, Jr. Alan Rachins Managing Partner/Interim Senior Partner Main
Arnold (Arnie) Becker Corbin Bernsen Partner Main
Ann Kelsey Jill Eikenberry Associate/Partner Main
Stuart Markowitz Michael Tucker Associate/Partner Main
Roxanne Melman Susan Ruttan Secretary Main Guest Main
Michael Kuzak Harry Hamlin Partner Main Main
Grace Van Owen Susan Dey Deputy District Attorney/Superior Court Judge/Of Counsel/Partner Main Main
Victor Sifuentes Jimmy Smits Associate Main Guest
Abby Perkins Michele Greene Associate Main Main
Jonathan Rollins Blair Underwood Associate/Partner Main
Benny Stulwicz Larry Drake Office Messenger Guest Main
Tommy Mullaney John Spencer Associate/Assistant District Attorney Main
Zoey Clemmons Cecil Hoffman Assistant District Attorney Main
Cara Jean "C.J." Lamb Amanda Donohoe Associate Main
Gwen Taylor Sheila Kelley Secretary/Law Intern Recurring Main
Frank Kittredge Michael Cumpsty Tenant Main
Susan Bloom Conchata Ferrell Tenant Main
Daniel Morales A Martinez Partner Main
Melina Paros Lisa Zane Associate Main
Eli Levinson Alan Rosenberg Partner Main Guest
Denise Iannello Debi Mazar Secretary Main
Jane Halliday Alexandra Powers Associate Main

Recurring characters

Series history

SeasonEpisodesOriginally airedRankRating
First airedLast aired
1 22September 15, 1986 (1986-09-15)April 9, 1987 (1987-04-09)2117.4 [lower-alpha 1]
2 20October 15, 1987 (1987-10-15)May 5, 1988 (1988-05-05)1218.3 [lower-alpha 2]
3 19November 3, 1988 (1988-11-03)May 18, 1989 (1989-05-18)1317.6 [lower-alpha 3]
4 22November 2, 1989 (1989-11-02)May 17, 1990 (1990-05-17)1617.4
5 22October 18, 1990 (1990-10-18)May 16, 1991 (1991-05-16)2314.8
6 22October 10, 1991 (1991-10-10)May 21, 1992 (1992-05-21)2813.3
7 22October 22, 1992 (1992-10-22)May 27, 1993 (1993-05-27)TBATBA
8 22October 7, 1993 (1993-10-07)May 19, 1994 (1994-05-19)TBATBA
  1. Tied with My Sister Sam
  2. Tied with Moonlighting
  3. Tied with Growing Pains

L.A. Law's two-hour pilot movie aired on Monday, September 15, 1986. An encore aired in place of Saturday Night Live on September 27, 1986, being a rare scripted rerun in that late-night slot.

The original time period was Friday 10PM following Miami Vice , but after struggling there, it assumed NBC's prized Thursday 10PM (9PM Central) time slot in the Must See TV primetime block from another Bochco-produced show, Hill Street Blues (where he had been fired from). The show was itself eventually replaced by another hit ensemble drama, ER .

Co-creator Terry Louise Fisher was fired from the series in season 2 and filed a well-publicized lawsuit with Bochco and the studio. Bochco and Fisher had also co-created the 1987 John Ritter series Hooperman for ABC.

The scene in season 5 where Leland McKenzie (Richard Dysart) was shown in bed with his enemy Rosalind Shays (Diana Muldaur) was ranked as the 38th greatest moment in television (the list originally appeared in an issue of EGG Magazine). The episode "Good To The Last Drop" in which Rosalind met her demise—falling into an open elevator shaft—was ranked #91 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time. [12] It was referenced in The Star Trek Encyclopedia (prior to L.A. Law, Muldaur had played Dr. Katherine Pulaski during season 2 of Star Trek: The Next Generation ) in which Pulaski's biography says: "There is no truth to the rumor that an ancestor of Dr. Pulaski was killed falling down the elevator shaft at a prestigious Los Angeles law firm."

After co-writing the feature film, From the Hip , Boston attorney David E. Kelley was hired by Bochco during the first season of L.A. Law. [13] Kelley went on to critical and commercial success as show-runner of the series before leaving to create Picket Fences . While on L.A. Law, Kelley and Bochco co-created Doogie Howser, M.D. as the first Steven Bochco Productions series for a major, ten-series deal with ABC. Shortly thereafter, Bochco was offered the job as President of ABC Entertainment, but he turned it down.

At the height of the show's popularity in the late-1980s, attention was focused upon a fictitious sex position named the "Venus Butterfly" in season 1. The only clue describing the technique was a vague reference to "ordering room service". Fans and interested persons flooded the show's producers with letters asking for more details about this mysterious technique.[ citation needed ]

The show won GLAAD’s first Media Award for Outstanding Drama Series in 1990, which it shared with Heartbeat. [14] The first lesbian kiss on television occurred on the show in 1991 ("He's a Crowd", Season 5, Episode 12), between the characters of C.J. Lamb (played by Amanda Donohoe) and Abby (Michele Greene). [15]

The show tied itself into the events of the Los Angeles riots of 1992, which were prompted by the acquittal of four white police officers who were put on trial for the videotaped beating of black motorist Rodney King. [4] In a scene reminiscent of the Attack on Reginald Denny, tax attorney Stuart Markowitz is struck on the head by a rioter, and ends up having serious head injuries, causing a number of problems for him and his wife for several episodes as a result. [16] Douglas Brackman, their boss, is also arrested in the mayhem of the riots as he is on his way to get remarried.

After the fifth season, Kelley left the show. Patricia Green and Rick Wallace were his replacements as executive producer. Green was the main creative force. Her character additions amid cast turnover were met with mixed reaction. She left the show in January 1992. Kelley and Bochco returned to write episodes and Bochco moved back to executive producer from consultant while Kelley stayed consultant. Bochco left the executive producer position after the sixth season and John Tinker and John Masius were brought in to run the seventh season. Kelley exited as consultant. Amid plummeting ratings during the seventh season, co-executive producers John Tinker & John Masius were fired midseason, and while the show went on hiatus, William M. Finkelstein was brought in to fix it. Tinker and Masius had brought a whimsical, soap-operatic tone to the series for which they had been known on St. Elsewhere . Dan Castellaneta (the voice of Homer Simpson) appeared in a Homer costume and hired the attorneys in the seventh-season premiere. That episode also reflected on the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Finkelstein reined in the series, returning to the serious legal cases that made the series famous.

In the eighth and final season, the characters of Eli Levinson (Alan Rosenberg) and Denise Iannello (Debi Mazar) were transplanted from the canceled Bochco legal series Civil Wars . [17] Eli Levinson was revealed to be Stuart Markowitz's cousin. During the final season, the series went on hiatus in January 1994 to launch the second season of Homicide: Life on the Street . When that series succeeded wildly with a guest appearance by Robin Williams, it was expected that L.A. Law would conclude that May and Homicide: Life on the Street would succeed it on Thursdays in the fall. However, ER tested so well that Warner Bros. executives campaigned network president Warren Littlefield to give that series the prized Thursday slot.

The series ended in 1994 with NBC not renewing the show for a ninth season at the last minute; giving the show without a proper finale or wrapping up storylines. [18] Bochco envisioned the show being repackaged into an occasional television film; a reunion show titled L.A. Law: The Movie would air in 2002 and featured most of the main cast from the series. [18] [19]

On August 4, 2020, Hamlin, Dey, Smits, Bernsen, Rachins, Greene and Underwood reunited on the Stars in the House video podcast to raise money for The Actors Fund. It was the first time Hamlin and Smits appeared together in 30 years.

Reruns were shown on Lifetime and later A&E during the 1990s and 2000s.

Reception

Any lawyer who doesn't watch L.A. Law the night before he's going to trial is a fool.

A New York attorney, on the show's influence on juries [20]

Because of its popularity, L.A. Law had great influence on how Americans viewed the law and lawyers. The New York Times described it as "television's most serious attempt to date to portray American law and the people who practice it ... L.A. Law, perhaps more than any other force, has come to shape public perceptions about lawyers and the legal system". Attorneys reported that the show had affected how they dressed and spoke to juries (and, possibly, how those juries decided cases), and clients came to expect that cases could be tried and decided within a week. The number of applicants to law school rose because of how it glamourised the profession (including, as one law school dean stated, "the infinite possibilities for sex"), professors used L.A. Law as a teaching aid to discuss with their students legal issues raised in episodes, and law journal articles analysed the meaning of its plotlines. The show reportedly taught future lawyers things law school did not, such as time management and how to negotiate, [20] [21] and an attorney stated that the show accurately depicted life at a small law firm. [22]

One law professor wrote in the Yale Law Journal that L.A. Law "has conveyed more 'bytes' of information (truthful or not), more images about lawyers, than all the Legal Studies programs, all the op-ed pieces, all the PBS shows put together." The show was "a massive distortion of reality ... the lawyers of L.A. Law are caricatures", he stated, but "caricatures are always caricatures of something, and that has to be real". [23] Another wrote in the issue that the show "subtracts eighty to ninety-nine percent of lawyers' real work lives" and overemphasized the glamor of the rest. Unlike other works of legal fiction such as Perry Mason and Presumed Innocent , however, which are essentially mysteries that lawyers solve, L.A. Law's plots taught its tens of millions of viewers torts, ethics, and other basic legal ideas and dilemmas that comprise the first year of a legal education. [24]

Home media

Revelation Films has released all eight seasons of LA Law on DVD in the UK (Region 2). This is the first time the show has been released on DVD anywhere in the world. [25] [26] [27] [28] [29]

On April 18, 2016, Revelation Films released L.A. Law – The Complete Collection on DVD in the UK. The 46-disc box set features all 171 episodes of the series in special collectors packaging. [30]

In Region 1, Shout! Factory has released the first three seasons on DVD. [31] [32] [33]

DVD nameEp#Release dates
Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
Season One22February 25, 2014January 23, 2012N/A
Season Two20May 20, 2014June 4, 2012N/A
Season Three19September 23, 2014September 17, 2012N/A
Season Four22N/AFebruary 11, 2013N/A
Season Five22N/AAugust 19, 2013N/A
Season Six22N/ANovember 25, 2013N/A
Season Seven22N/AMarch 21, 2016N/A
Season Eight22N/AMarch 21, 2016N/A
Complete Series171N/AApril 18, 2016N/A

Sequel series

In December 2020, it was reported that a sequel of the series was developing at ABC. Blair Underwood is set to reprise his role as Rollins and will also serve as executive producer and will be produced by Steve Bochco Productions and 20th Television with Bochco's widow Dayna and son Jesse will co-executive producing and Marc Guggenheim and Ubah Mohamed will write and Anthony Hemingway will directing. [34]

Accolades

The show won numerous awards, including 15 Emmy Awards. It won the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series in 1987, 1989, 1990 and 1991. [35] [36] [37] It was also nominated for the award in 1988 and 1992. Some of the actors, such as Larry Drake and Jimmy Smits, also received Emmys for their performances. The series shares the Emmy Award record for most acting nominations by regular cast members (excluding the guest performer category) for a single series in one year with Hill Street Blues, The West Wing and Game of Thrones

For the 1988–1989 season, nine cast members were nominated for Emmys. Larry Drake, Jimmy Smits, and Richard Dysart were the only one to win (for Supporting Actor). The others nominated were: Michael Tucker (for Lead Actor); Jill Eikenberry and Susan Dey (both for Lead Actress); and Amanda Donohoe, Susan Ruttan, Michele Greene, and Conchata Ferrell (all for Supporting Actress).

The series won a Latino Image Award. [38]

It was listed as #42 on Entertainment Weekly's list of The New Classics in the July 4, 2008 issue. [39]

Primetime Emmy Awards

YearCategoryNominee(s)Episode(s)Result
1987 Outstanding Drama Series Won
Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series Gregory Hoblit "Pilot"Won
Donald Petrie "The Venus Butterfly"Nominated
Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series Steven Bochco & Terry Louise Fisher "The Venus Butterfly"Won
William M. Finkelstein "Sidney, the Dead-Nosed Reindeer"Nominated
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Corbin Bernsen Nominated
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Susan Dey Nominated
Jill Eikenberry Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Jimmy Smits Nominated
Michael Tucker Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Susan Ruttan Nominated
Outstanding Guest Performer in a Drama Series Alfre Woodard "Pilot"Won
Jeanne Cooper "The Venus Butterfly"Nominated
1988 Outstanding Drama Series Nominated
Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series Gregory Hoblit "The Wizard of Odds"Nominated
Kim Friedman "Hand Roll Express"Nominated
Win Phelps "Full Marital Jacket"Nominated
Sam Weisman "Beauty and Obese"Nominated
Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series Terry Louise Fisher & David E. Kelley "Beauty and Obese"Nominated
Terry Louise Fisher, David E. Kelley & Steven Bochco "Full Marital Jacket"Nominated
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Corbin Bernsen Nominated
Michael Tucker Nominated
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Susan Dey Nominated
Jill Eikenberry Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Larry Drake "Full Marital Jacket"Won
Jimmy Smits Nominated
Alan Rachins Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Susan Ruttan "Leaping Lizards"Nominated
1989 Outstanding Drama Series Won
Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series Eric Laneuville "I'm In The Nude For Love"Nominated
John Pasquin "To Live And Diet In L.A."Nominated
Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series Steven Bochco, David E. Kelley, William M. Finkelstein & Michele Gallery "His Suit Is Hirsute"Nominated
David E. Kelley "I'm In The Nude For Love"Nominated
David E. Kelley, William M. Finkelstein, Michele Gallery & Judith Parker "Urine Trouble Now"Nominated
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Michael Tucker Nominated
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Susan Dey Nominated
Jill Eikenberry Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Larry Drake "America the Beautiful"Won
Jimmy Smits Nominated
Richard Dysart Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Susan Ruttan "Romancing The Drone"Nominated
Amanda Plummer "Urine Trouble Now"Nominated
Michele Greene "America The Beautiful"Nominated
1990 Outstanding Drama Series Won
Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series Win Phelps "Noah's Bark"Nominated
Rick Wallace "The Last Gasp"Nominated
Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series David E. Kelley "Blood, Sweat & Fears"Won
David E. Kelley & William M. Finkelstein "Bang... Zoom... Zap"Nominated
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Jill Eikenberry Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Jimmy Smits "Blood, Sweat and Fears"Won
Larry Drake Nominated
Richard Dysart Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Susan Ruttan "The Good Human Bar"Nominated
Diana Muldaur "Whatever Happened to Hannah?"Nominated
1991 Outstanding Drama Series Won
Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series Tom Moore "God Rest Ye Murray Gentleman"Nominated
Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series David E. Kelley "On The Toad Again"Won
Judith Feldman & Sarah Woodside Gallagher "Lie Harder"Nominated
David E. Kelley, Patricia Green & Alan Brennert "Mutinies On The Banzai"Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Jimmy Smits "God Rest Ye Murray Gentleman"Nominated
Richard Dysart "The Beverly Hills Hangers"Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Diana Muldaur "He's a Crowd"Nominated
Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series John Glover "God Rest Ye Murray Gentleman"Nominated
1992 Outstanding Drama Series Nominated
Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series Rick Wallace "Say Goodnight Gracie"Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Richard Dysart "Monkey on My Back Lot"Won
Jimmy Smits "Say Goodnight Gracie"Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Conchata Ferrell "P.S. Your Shrink Is Dead"Nominated
1994 Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Jill Eikenberry "Safe Sex"Nominated

Golden Globe Awards

YearCategoryNominee(s)Result
1987 Best Television Series – Drama Won
1988 Best Television Series – DramaWon
Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Drama Harry Hamlin Nominated
Michael Tucker Nominated
Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama Susan Dey Won
Jill Eikenberry Nominated
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television Alan Rachins Nominated
1989 Best Television Series – DramaNominated
Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Drama Harry Hamlin Nominated
Corbin Bernsen Nominated
Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama Susan Dey Nominated
Jill Eikenberry Won
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television Larry Drake Nominated
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television Susan Ruttan Nominated
1990 Best Television Series – DramaNominated
Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Drama Harry Hamlin Nominated
Corbin Bernsen Nominated
Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama Susan Dey Nominated
Jill Eikenberry Nominated
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television Larry Drake Nominated
Michael Tucker Nominated
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television Susan Ruttan Nominated
1991 Best Television Series – DramaNominated
Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama Susan Dey Nominated
Jill Eikenberry Nominated
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television Jimmy Smits Nominated
Blair Underwood Nominated
1992 Best Television Series – DramaNominated
Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama Susan Dey Nominated
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television Larry Drake Nominated
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television Amanda Donohoe Won

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References

  1. Weinstein, Steve (August 12, 1990). "Saying So Long to Billable Hours: Television: 'L.A. Law's' finale will complete filming today, but the characters' stories won't be tied up in a neat package". Los Angeles Times . Retrieved December 12, 2010.
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