Legal shows are compelling because there is a winner and a loser by the end of the program. In that way, courtroom legal dramas are much like sporting events, only the winners don’t get big contracts and endorsement money, they get to stay out of jail. The drama of a courtroom battle with the clock ticking towards a verdict may make the show interesting, but it doesn’t make it realistic or good. Here are five TV shows about lawyers that will give you a poor understanding of justice.
Boston Legal (2004-08)
There were many aspects of this show that were interesting, but there were few instances where the writers and producers concerned themselves with justice. Particularly when aging founding partner Denny Crane (William Shatner) was involved. Crane’s character had plenty of value because he had interesting conversations with colleague Alan Shore (James Spader) as they sipped Scotch and smoked cigars. Many of their conversations were about the vagaries of the opposite sex and life’s disappointments–and had little to do with justice.
Ally McBeal (1997-2002)
This was a show that featured many brilliant lawyers who had the mental acuity and intelligence to outwit their legal opponents. However, the title character was obsessed with her insecurities and her lost loves. The most notable moments of this series were about relationships and dancing babies (if you don’t know, consider yourself lucky) and not courtroom dramas. The writers of this series were fast and clever, but their best dialogue sequences had little to do with the law.
In this series, Glenn Close gets to do what she does best. The striking and powerful blonde plays an overbearing character and takes her over the top. In this case, it’s as trial lawyer Patty Hewes and she will do anything to win her cases. Bribing judges is an acceptable way for her to go about her business. She takes a young lawyer under her wing and shows her the way of her win-at-all-costs legal world.
Judging Amy (1999-2005)
This was a dramatic show that featured an empathetic Judge Amy Grey (Amy Brenneman) who seemed more interested in relating to the people in her courtroom than issuing verdicts and results that were based on the law. The world might be a better place if there were more judges like Grey, but it’s not how the legal system works and doesn’t portray a realistic picture of justice in the courtroom.
This series featured high-profile Los Angeles attorney Sebastian Stark (James Woods) as a successful defense attorney who is not above using any tactic he can muster–legal or illegal–to win his cases. He’s so successful and so sleazy that he’s recruited by the prosecutors to join the district attorney’s office. Woods gives a clichéd performance as the lawyer as shyster who has moments where he demonstrates a heart of gold, such as when he is helping out his daughter Julie (Danielle Panabaker).