Tuesday, July 14, 2009

5 Things I Learned Re-Watching The Practice on Hulu

Not really a whole lot of prologue to add to that. I was clicking around Hulu, stumbled upon The Practice -- a show I was wild about back in the late '90s -- and started watching episodes from around the beginning of the second season. For a show that was such a critical and (eventually) popular hit at the time, it doesn't really get a whole lot of play these days. As a result, I've forgotten enough about these early seasons to make them halfway fresh. So what have I gleaned?

1. The Politics Have Grown Musty With Age
It's not necessarily the fault of the show, but 10+ years later, it feels like an entirely different world than the one The Practice inhabited. The first episode I re-watched involved John Larroquette as a gay man accused of killing his partner. There was still such a scandalousness about the gayness that seems quaint now. (Don't mistake me, though -- it remains an amazing episode; still one of my favorites.) The frequent racially-based storylines don't share that same quaintness, but they also display a more clunkily overt, pre-2K racism -- the kind that was still more informed by Rodney King than it would later be by Hurricane Katrina or Obama.

2. There's a Reason We Haven't Heard From Michael Badalucco Lately
The major theme that has asserted itself time and time again in these re-watchings has been my utter lack of patience for the Jimmy Berlutti character. It never bothered me before, but the whole "average Joe, shlubby lawyer, bumbling everyman" schtick was layed on so incredibly thick, it was almost a parody of itself. And Badalucco's acting is awful -- grating and grandiose and stammering. Naturally, he won the Emmy. He proves to be the exception to the rule, as the rest of the cast definitely holds up -- particularly the ever-intense Steve Harris and Kelli Williams, who was giving a full-bodied and multi-dimensional David E. Kelley character while America was busy bemoaning Ally McBeal.

3. It's Guest Star Nirvana
I've only plowed through eight episodes or so, but already I've seen an absolute parade of phenomenal guest actors. Phillip Baker Hall! Ed Asner! President Logan from 24! Donal Logue! Anna Gunn from Breaking Bad! Titus Welliver! Melina Kanakarwhatsherface! It's a perfect combination of people who were Hey! It's That Guys at the time (that dick from Ghostbusters!) or would be in the future (Principal Wood from Buffy!). The best of this group has been Linda Hunt as Judge Hiller. Maybe I'm in a Linda Hunt state of mind after doing the 1983 Smackdown, but she was the absolute star of a two-parter where she took the ultimate of stock roles -- the judge -- and blazed a trail through the entire show.

4. Dylan McDermott Is Louder, Sexier Than Ever
I don't think I'm surprised by either of these, I'm just saying. Man, that hot piece of ass liked to yell.

5. They're Not Kidding Around With That Blue Filter
I'm certain this is something that will end up getting less severe as the series goes on, but holy god, was everyone on this show incredibly washed out. It's a wonder Lara Flynn Boyle registers on screens at all.


Melanie said...

Hands down the best guest star The Practice ever had was Michael Emerson as a serial killer/Lindsey's stalker. Of course, at the time, he might not have been famous enough to be a special guest star, but when he showed up on Lost as Henry Gale, I was like, "That guy is the creepiest creep to ever creep on TV in the history of creepy guys," and I knew we were in for it.

Beth said...

If you make it all the way to the end of the series, then you have James Spader to look forward to. The Practice's version of Alan Shore is so much more of a badass than his Boston Legal counterpart.

adam k. said...

Dude, Dylan McDermott is so foxy. I had a big Practice phase in high school, and then later in college when there were reruns on constantly every morning, and I really loved Bobby Donnell.

He reminds me now of lawyer-era Lee Adama. Except sexier.