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Show will present its case on new night



Published: Tue, August 9, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The new episodes will start at the end of September.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE

"Boston Legal" returns tonight (10 p.m. EDT), sort of.

In a bid to re-acquaint viewers with the show, which has been off the air since March, ABC is re-running the series premiere of the quirky law drama on its new day and time.

In the premiere, big-shot lawyer Denny Crane (William Shatner) is caught having an affair with a top client's wife, and one of Crane's partners, Alan Shore (James Spader), takes on the case of a young black girl turned down for the lead role in a production of the musical "Annie."

After a run of repeats, "Legal" returns for real -- with new episodes -- Sept. 27.

"Legal" is something of an acquired taste: If you don't appreciate the enjoyably hammy Shatner or the skeezy charisma of Spader, this is probably not the show for you.

Then again, if you dig the palpable chemistry these two evenly matched oddballs bring to the TV screen, not to mention "Boston" creator David E. Kelley's unconventional take on legal drama, the coming season should be even more of a treat.

Creator's plans

Kelley has said he's interested in playing up the comedic aspects of the show even more this season, which last year veered wildly among tragedy, bedroom frolics and farce.

The casting also changed almost weekly in the first year; Mark Valley went from featured player to near-nonentity, unfortunately, and the ineffective Lake Bell was written out by mid-season. Kerry Washington and Rhona Mitra will also be gone in the new season; they'll be replaced by Julie Bowen ("Ed") and newcomer Ryan Michelle Bathe.

Candice Bergen was a spiffy midseason addition and proved to be a more than able straight man (well, woman) for both Shatner and Spader. Let's hope the other female characters are given meaty story lines in the new season as well -- the generally weak female characters were the show's downfall in much of its freshman year.

Speaking of "new," as it applies to "Boston Legal," the term needs some clarification. The show was bumped last spring by the medical drama "Grey's Anatomy," which turned out to be a huge hit for ABC. "Legal," which still had five episodes in the can from its first season, never got to return to its Sunday night spot, as ABC execs decided to let "Grey's" finish out the season alongside "Desperate Housewives."

Four of those first-season "Legal" episodes will air at the beginning of "Boston's" new season, including a two-parter starring Heather Locklear.

Kelley recently told a gathering of TV critics that he knows "Boston" will have to prove itself all over again in its new Tuesday berth.

"It's up against obviously tough competition," Kelley said. "It's against 'Law & amp; Order,' one of them, and Jerry Bruckheimer's [new legal drama 'Close to Home'].




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