I love Boston Legal. Absolutely.
And of course, the next (only) logical statement is: I absolutely loved James Spader/Alan Shore.
But waitaminute, love’d’?
I first watched Boston Legal in around 2007-08, when I was in college. I missed out on the initial episodes of season 1 and 2, but I was pretty regular with 3, 4 and 5. It is one of the smartest, wittiest, most engrossing TV series I have ever come across. And of course, there’s Alan Shore.
How can anyone not love Alan Shore. I mean, HOW. Of course, there’s nothing about the show that you cannot love. David E Kelly creates some really compelling characters – each with their own idiosyncrasies and issues. And of course, he gets a ‘just perfect’ actor to play each role. Whether it’s William Shatner portraying the borderline narcissist, sexually explicit, heart-of-gold bearing, ‘mad-cow’ ridden, legendary attorney Denny Crane; or Christian Clemenson as encyclopedic, introverted, socially awkward, Asperger’s Syndrome ridden lawyer Jerry “Hands” Espenson; or even Rene Auberjonois as the perpetually constipated, about-to-have-a-coronary, totally predictable and annoyingly self-righteous Paul Lewiston – David E Kelly gets them all ‘just perfect’.
The story-telling and scripting are the wittiest I have ever seen in a drama. Kelly seamlessly and effortlessly blends critical and controversial American issues (abortion, religious extremism, gun control, tobacco, sexual harassment, racism, the US war on Iraq, global warming, justice system, homophobia) with humour and satire with such class that you cannot help but chuckle. And underlining all of this – the leitmotif throughout the show is the heart-warming friendship between Denny Crane and Alan Shore, who, opposite as opposites could be, stick together thanks to their common love of whisky, cigars and women.
But oh, the highlight of the show – what made it absolutely irresistible to anyone who watched it – was undeniably Alan Shore. When I watched the series for the first time, it was only and only for Alan Shore. Sexiest man alive, EVER. Period. Alan Shore is the quintessential bad guy, who does good things. Just what women want. He’s astutely intelligent, fears nothing and nobody, gets what he wants, does what is needed to get it, and does it with such charm and panache that you love him even when he is screwing you over. He’s stubborn, lascivious, egotistical and absolutely hates being vulnerable in any way. He chases women incorrigibly and women chase him hopelessly. He’s everything you will want, and when you have him, he’s everything you wish you never had.
And can he talk!! After 5 seasons of orgasm-inducing closing statements, anything else that any man could do with his mouth seems to pale in comparison. Alan Shore’s dialogues, distinct speech and intonation, and badass vocabulary oozes sex appeal. But don’t think he’s all gas and no gumption. Alan Shore fiercely defends the innocent, the betrayed, the victimized and the wronged, particularly when it seems like no one else can or will. But he’s got issues. Commitment-issues, intimacy-issues, mommy-issues. He is, like the channel says, The Bad Good Guy. And I loved him. In fact, I don’t believe any woman who watched the show couldn’t. He’s was The Man. In a Screwed-Up World, the Imperfect Man fits in Perfectly. And that’s what you want.
Then they started a rerun in December 2013. And I was only too excited to watch it all over again. I got the hubby pretty excited too, and no doubt, he too started loving the series. I had stopped watching TV altogether, but I set aside time to watch Alan Shore in action, again. Then, I noticed someone else. Brad Chase.
Brad Chase, played by the very handsome Mark Valley, is the antithesis of Alan Shore. Don’t get me wrong, he’s also very passionate about defending the right and defeating the wrong, but just that Brad Chase takes the boring, right approach. He’s conscientious and respectful, upright and matter-of-fact, professional and brave. He’s an ex-Marine who is passionately patriotic, believes in family, does good by society and does not lie. But makes no bones whacking off a priest’s fingers or impersonating an FBI officer while trying to rescue a 4 year old boy, even though it may land him in jail. And he’s very handsome. Did I mention that?
Takes no time to guess then, that Brad hates Alan Shore. To be honest, I hated Brad, when I watched the series for the first time. I’d snort and turn up my nose at him. Bah, how typical. How predictable. How boring. But this time, it was different. Now I loved him. More than I loved Alan Shore. In fact, for the first time, I actually saw how his character was actually better than Alan Shore.Because you see, Alan Shore, for all his enigma, and aura, and confidence and charm is not someone you can count on. If you were in a relationship with Alan Shore, he’d excite you, intimidate you, overwhelm you and discomfort you and you’d think, “OMG I’ve never felt this way before – this must be love!!!” only to feel nauseated at best or suffocated at worst to be with a man who you can never really figure out or be sure of.
But isn’t that what most women want? The thrill of being chased, the drama of unpredictability, the romance of discomfort. Love is not a comforting arm around you, a warm hug, a gentle kiss and a simple dinner. It’s sleepless nights and amazing sex and screaming fights. That’s passion! That’s excitement! That’s Bullshit. This weird and dysfunctional view of men and romance is the reason why women are consistently unhappy in love and relationships. It’s why I was miserable in love and relationship. Because I was in love with an Alan Shore! And let me tell you -it’s not love. Heck, it’s not even a relationship. Love isn’t discomfort. It isn’t Dangerous. And it’s definitely not Cocky or Witty. Love is Dependable. Love is Polite. Love is Brave. Love is Respectful. Love is Brad Chase.
A man who does the right thing by you. Who says what he means and means what he says. Who is considerate of your feelings and extends himself to make room for them. Who respects things even if he doesn’t agree with them. Who does what is needed, and not what he feels like. Who has wants, not whims. Who is straightforward, not sarcastic. Who’s more practical than passionate. Forthright, not Funny. Who fights hard, but fights fair. Who’ll do the right thing even when he hates it. Who’s good, not grand. Who doesn’t sweep you off your feet, but keeps you grounded.
Brad Chase encourages lawyers to go vote during a meeting. Alan Shore publicly and scathingly despises the government. Brad talks down a suicide bomber from carrying out his threat in open court before knocking him out with a punch. Alan pays a patron to start a bar-room brawl when a man punches him. Brad is disappointed but still graceful when a female co-worker rejects him. Alan mocks his ex-girlfriend and almost drives another one insane. Brad wants to marry Denise and have a family with her when he learns she is pregnant with his child. Alan lives in a hotel so that he can ‘check out on a whim’. Brad helps Alan Shore overcome his fear of clowns, even though he hates him. Alan slights Brad when they don’t see eye-to-eye. And, well, he makes good closing statements.
But Brad’s qualities are not what we want in a man. These qualities are boring. They are not exciting or passionate. They don’t sweep you off your feet. And if you haven’t been paying attention to the social customs as dictated by the media these days, being swept off your feet has become almost mandatory in relationships. It’s all Witty, Smart, Great Sense of Humour, with a Bottle of Champagne in one hand and a Bouquet of Roses in another. That’s the dog-shit criteria we’ve been fed these days. Hard-working, Honest or Polite?? Meh. What’s the fun in that? I want the jokes, bloody! I want the charm! I want the sweeping!! Even Boston Legal, the show that’s otherwise brutally honest, presents Brad Chase as the ‘stupider & simpler’ version of Alan Shore. It’s all, ‘Let’s give viewers the typical male soap-star and poke fun at him’. Every amazing quality Brad possesses is routinely and categorically paled out to Alan Shore’s closing statements. Whereas, as a friend and another hardcore Boston Legal fan pointed out: If Brad Chase had been given even an fraction of the oratory excellence that was part of Alan Shore’s character, he would’ve made the sexiest man on TV, EVER.
And so we fall in love with Alan Shore. With an Imperfect Man who fits perfectly in our Screwed-Up view of the World. Who is everything we want; but can give us nothing of what we need. But worry not, the best thing about being with an Alan Shore is – sooner or later, you get a closing statement.