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Just when I thought “Boston Legal” was going to forever fade into the kind of redundancy that was starting to plague this entire season, it took a nice break from some of the whimsical hijinks and sexual politics that have hurt the show this season and returned to the kind of compelling moral dilemmas that occasionally give the show a spiritual base, including:

  • James Spader’s “Alan Shore” defending a woman who liberated her father’s plastinized (muscle-organ-filled skeleton) body from a museum exhibit;
  • Shore’s surprise opponent being none other than his old friend (and project) Jerry Espensen as Shore protects the employment rights of a UFO-believing therapist while being forced to choose between the success of his friend or his case;
  • “Clarence Bell,” the character who finds confidence in dressing and acting like a woman, being invited to deeper relational intimacy by his boss;
  • Main characters “Denise Bauer” and “Brad Chase” attempting to move from their friends-with-benefits relationship towards the longshot of marriage and ending up in an insults-turned-sincere discussion of gender roles in modern marriage;
  • William Shatner’s “Denny Crane” attending temple and defending Lutheranism (sort of) as part of his own spiritual reflection.

    Yes, “Boston Legal” is a show that makes mockery seem mundane and whimsy seem well-mannered, but this list is a lot for a one-hour show to accomplish, and this one came through.

    Crane’s visit to temple borders on insulting to the Jewish audience, but his admission that “to us Christians, Temple is a, uh, college” is actually fair satire because too few Christians know enough about the Jewish faith to treat it as they do. Further, too few Christians know enough about their denominations, illustrated by his statement “I know what we Lutherans believe; we believe in… Luther.”

    Chase’s case that many successful working women actually would love to stay home and nurture healthy children seems so dramatically retro that it borders on insulting to Denise, but when he shares with candor “you’re lost,” her response is healthy and honest: “I’m scared.”

    The plasticity case pointed out the absolute dangers of alcoholism by visually depicting how ugly a ruined liver looks while gently proclaiming “promiscuity heightens the odds.”

    And as usual, the deepest reflections came from Shore, who beat his friend by beating him up, hence the show’s title of “The Good Lawyer.” Shore was good at his job but he wasn’t good to his friend, the all-too-often choice of litigators.

    “I want so badly to believe in God, not because of any words in the Bible or claims made by gospels, but because I suppose with our planet being polluted into extinction while country after country develops nuclear bombs coinciding with an unprecedented escalation in hatred while an entire continent is dying from AIDS and starvation as the rest of the world pretends not to notice, it’s just not that easy these days to have faith in man,” says Shore, the decided agnostic, before going on: “I’m not sure I if do believe in God, and even if I did, I’m not sure he’d be the same God who you believe in. But in the throws of doubt, I still do believe in man. I believe in man’s innate sense of humanity, his potential for compassion, for reason, righteousness in his heart.”

    Now if we could just get the producers to help him realize that that ability for compassion, reason, righteousness and heights of humanity comes from God alone, then we’d really have ourselves a show!

    In the end, Shatner’s Crane articulates a position probably held by all too many Christians who won’t admit it but whose life hypocrisy reveals it:

    “Because if you believe in God and it turns out there’s no God, then there’s no harm, no foul. But if you don’t believe in God and it turns out there is one… you’re screwed.”

    “Why then,” says an intelligent Shore, “does He allow for all of this suffering that goes on?”

    Hence the end of an admittedly risqué show that comes far closer to asking the kinds of compelling questions than many church services and bible studies lack, but were par for the course when Jesus walked the planet.

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