Although David E. Kelley had some time to set up the world of "Boston Legal" in the final episodes of "The Practice," the show didn't spring fully formed from its predecessor in the fall of 2004. Watching the show find its footing over the course of its first year is one of the more entertaining things about this DVD set.
For non-diehards, 12 hours of Kelley's blend of did-he-really humor, courtroom theatrics and strident politics might be a bit much to take in one or two sittings. But watching "Legal's" first season on DVD is, as much as anything, a record of how the prolific Kelley, who wrote 14 of the 17 episodes, tinkers with his setup and characters.
Characters come (hello, Candice Bergen) and go, sometimes permanently (Lake Bell, we hardly knew ye), and the tone can vary wildly, sometimes within the same episode. It would have been interesting to hear from Kelley about how he found a voice for the show, but alas, there are no commentary tracks to be found. We get only a cursory view into the creator's thought process in one of two featurettes, which along with a batch of rightfully deleted scenes from the pilot make up the total of the set's bonus features.
The other featurette, focusing on the show's two alpha males, Emmy winners James Spader and William Shatner, is easily the best of the small lot. The self-effacing Shatner is his usual amusing self, and Spader offers some insight into why his Alan Shore and Shatner's Denny Crane click. Kelley also reveals that the show-closing balcony conversations between the two -- now a staple of the series -- weren't planned as a regular feature.
Really, Spader and Shatner are probably the main attractions in this set, along with the later addition of Bergen (who seemed to help the show find a more solid footing). They're amazingly adept at handling the show's silly-to-serious pendulum, and Kelley could scarcely have found better partners.
STUDIO: Fox Home Entertainment
RELEASE DATE: May 23
TIME: 12 hours, 19 minutes
DVD EXTRAS: Featurettes "Court Is Now in Session" and "An Unlikely Pair: Alan Shore and Denny Crane," deleted scenes