The wave of nostalgia sweeping through primetime has been officially upgraded to a tsunami. Reunion shows are de rigueur and NBC jumps on the bandwagon with “L.A. Law: The Movie,” featuring most of the original cast some eight years later.
Penned by former “L.A. Law” exec producer and writer William Finkelstein, the movie is nothing short of predictable. Viewers can count on two hours of solid entertainment.
“L.A. Law” may be solely responsible for the marked increase in law school enrollment in the early 1990s, considering its cutting-edge cases and personal drama promoted the practice as an exciting career choice. After all, before “Ally McBeal’s” Georgia and Billy were having sex on the conference table, Ann and Stuart were trying to conceive on the office floor. Suffice to say: Bobby and Lindsay of “The Practice” certainly owe a lot to Grace Van Owen and Michael Kuzak.
Given that these more recent lawyer shows have upped the dramatic and sexual ante, it’s refreshing to see the familiar faces of McKenzie-Brackman doing what they do best without new gimmicks.
Since viewers last visited the prestigious firm, patriarch Leland McKenzie (Richard Dysart) has retired, trading in legal pads for gardening tools. Douglas Brackman Jr. (Alan Rachins) is in charge, still running a tight ship, with son Jason (Jason Peck) one of his underlings.
Divorce attorney Arnie Becker (Corbin Bernsen) finally gets a taste of his nasty medicine when he and his young wife, Lara (Ingrid Torrance), become engaged in a bitter divorce. Making matters considerably worse is that Lara has hired Abby Perkins (Michele Greene) as her lawyer. Abby, no longer the insecure doormat of McKenzie-Brackman, clearly relishes the idea of taking on her former bosses.
Meanwhile, Stuart (Michael Tucker) and Ann (Jill Eikenberry), still the happy odd couple, are shocked to learn that their spiritual guru has siphoned off their personal finances.
For viewers with short memories or those new to the concept, director Michael Schultz provides enough of a refresher. But it will be clear to even the uninitiated that the real drama is reserved for Michael (Harry Hamlin) and Grace (Susan Dey).
Michael, now a restaurateur after leaving the firm 10 years ago, gets drawn back to his former trade when Raylene Hutchinson (Bruklin Harris) pleads for him to again represent her father, Albert (Steven Williams). Michael defended Albert when he was convicted of killing a police officer.
With two weeks until his execution, new evidence has emerged and Michael, still seeking closure from the case that forced him to give up the law, rediscovers his old passions — in more ways than one.
Michael is in a race against time to prove Albert’s innocence, and standing firmly in his way is his ex, Grace, now a district attorney and the original prosecutor on the case.
Finkelstein’s script is a crowd-pleaser, but he has deftly included emotional growth in the mix so that these beloved characters (many with more pounds and less hair) remain true to form while still believably reflecting the passage of time.
Arnie is still reprehensible, but now has a world-weary edge. Grace has her ferocity, but there’s vulnerability, too. Michael, ever idealistic, is fighting not only for his client’s redemption but for his own. Even Douglas appears to have more of a soul now that his son is among those he lords over.
Mike Post’s theme song is sure to stir up memories. Technical credits reflect the high standards set by today’s top shows.