Practice: The Final Season, The (DVD Review)9 Apr, 2014 By: John Latchem
$29.93 six-DVD set
Stars Steve Harris, Camryn Manheim, Michael Badalucco, Jessica Capshaw, Rhona Mitra, James Spader.
Let’s face it, “The Practice” was pretty much done after the seventh season. When the eighth season rolled around in 2003, star Dylan McDermott was at the top of the list of several actors who left the show. What possible future could the show have without the central character of Bobby Donnell running the law firm at the heart of the show?
Enter ethically challenged attorney Alan Shore, sublimely played by James Spader. “The Practice” was always a show that had fun with exploring the margins of the legal profession, as its core cast of defense attorneys pursued any and every angle at their disposal in their quest to secure their clientele “reasonable doubt for a reasonable fee.” And occasionally their clients were actually innocent.
The show from acclaimed writer David E. Kelley was one of the top legal dramas of all time in its early years, but started to devolve with bizarre storylines involving the main characters hooking up or dealing with their own legal troubles (like being framed for murder).
So the arrival of Alan Shore was like a breath of fresh air, shaking up a status quo that definitely needed it. His classic first appearance tells you everything you need to know about the character, as he waltzes into the firm and asks for a job, even as he openly admits his old firm fired him for embezzlement (a “half Robin Hood,” as Shore describes it, because he “took from the rich” … and kept it). He then settles an assault case by negotiating an insurance scam to pay off all the participants.
Alan Shore so dominates the show after this that they may as well have renamed it “The James Spader Show.” Spader unsurprisingly won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his stint here, and would win the award twice more for playing Shore on spinoff “Boston Legal.”
In fact, this final season of “The Practice” is essentially the real first season of “Boston Legal,” and once the writing was on the wall regarding the fate of the show, the final seven episodes were written to move Shore to new law firm Crane, Poole & Schmidt and introduce William Shatner as legendary attorney Denny Crane (a role that would win Shatner a guest actor Emmy in this season and for supporting actor on “Boston Legal”).
The season also feature lengthy story arcs featuring guest stars Sharon Stone (who won a guest actress Emmy for her work here), Patrick Dempsey, Chris O’Donnell and Betty White.
Fox released the first 13 episodes from the first two seasons of “The Practice” as a volume in 2007, and then followed it up with nothing. The fact that “Boston Legal” is available in its entirety probably prompted Shout! Factory to jump ahead in the timeline with this release, not to mention the resurgent popularity of Spader, who has a new hit show in NBC’s “The Blacklist” and has been tapped to play the Marvel Comics villain Ultron in next year’s sequel to The Avengers.