LA Law Season 1 on DVD

LA Law is a glossy, glitzy US series that ran for eight seasons from 1986 to 1994. It is the brain child of Steven Bochco, David Kelly and Terry Louise Fisher, between them responsible for some of the very best TV including Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue, Ally McBeal and Boston Legal. Winner of an amazing six Emmys and five Golden Globes, the show concerns the trials and tribulations of employees at top law firm McKenzie, Brackman, Chaney and Kuzak.

Part court-room drama and part soap opera, the series follows the varied cases the lawyers undertake and their mixed fortunes both at work and after hours. The tone of the show shifts to match the seriousness of the cases, and whilst some more frivolous trials engender a lot of light-hearted comedy, others stir up tension, tough moral decisions and strong drama as issues such as racial and sexual discrimination, domestic violence, rape and murder are covered.

LA Law - Season One comes to DVDSenior partner and father figure at the firm is Leland McKenzie (Richard Dysart – “The Thing”, “Being There”). Partners include penny-pinching and officious office manager Douglas Brackman Jr. (Alan Rachins – “Showgirls”), divorce expert Arnie Becker (Corbin Bernsen – Psych, “The Dentist 1 & 2”) and criminal law specialist Michael Kuzak (Harry Hamlin of the original “Clash of the Titans”).

Other lawyers at the firm include moral guardian Ann Kelsey (Jill Eikenberry, of the original “Arthur”), brilliant tax whiz Stuart Markowitz (Michael Tucker – “Cold Souls”) and young hopeful Abby Perkins (Michele Greene – The Unit). Jimmy Smits of “Star Wars: Episode II and III”, LAPD Blue and Dexter fame joins early on as hot shot Victor Sifuentes.

This superb series has so much going for it. The characters are immediately engaging, lovable, have great chemistry together and yet are sufficiently flawed, be it because of pride or ego, an addiction to womanising or blindness to the true nature of their clients, and I guarantee that you will want to follow their lives. The acting is bang-on for this kind of show; it is rarely tacky or so comedic that it loses sight of the underlying issues each episode dwells upon.

On the other hand, the plotlines rarely call for Oscar-level performances but most of the regular and guest cast is capable of hitting a high mark when the show requires it, especially in distressing cases involving issues such as child abuse or where the accused is dying from cancer or AIDS. The juxtaposition of light and dark emotion and subject matter helps to emphasise it.

There are plenty of silly cases to intersperse the major ones, and whilst the more heavy-duty trials can run on over the course of several episodes, the lighter and funnier ones provide seasoning, be it neighbours fighting over a dog or Becker fretting over his parents’ divorce when both parties want him to represent them against the other. The blend of feel-good drama and stimulating moral debate is perfect.

Romance features quite heavily in the series, be it between the firm’s lawyers or more often than not between Becker and his many attractive female clients! This aspect sexes up proceedings, much to the chagrin of Becker’s unrequited assistant Roxy (Susan Ruttan).

Whilst the bulk of the show depicts offices and courtrooms which you might think would get a bit stuffy, the pace is very rapid as numerous stories are interleaved each week and the direction cuts from one to another and back again to keep things lively and interesting.

I cannot end without mentioning the brilliant, saxophone-led theme tune which is another Mike Post classic, and whilst the opening titles go on for an age by today’s standards you will be gleefully humming or whistling along.

The box set sadly contains no special features. Hopefully the remaining seven seasons will be released in due course and perhaps the producers will see fit to include some bonus content in those.

LA Law - Season 1 (1986-7) is out now on DVD, courtesy of Revelation Films. The entire season has a running time of 1200 minutes approx, carries a ‘15’ certificate and retails for £34.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

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