L.A. LAW

Show Type: Legal Drama

First Telecast: October 3, 1986

Last Telecast: May 19, 1994

Broadcast History:

October 1986 – November 1986, Friday 10:00-11:00 on NBC

December 1986 – August 1990, Thursday 10:00-11:00 on NBC

October 1990 – February 1993, Thursday 10:00-11:00 on NBC

April 1993 – December 1993, Thursday 10:00-11:00 on NBC

February 1994 – May 1994, Thursday 10:00-11:00 on NBC

Cast

Leland McKenzie..... Richard Dysart

Douglas Brackman, Jr. ..... Alan Rachins

Michael Kuzak (1986-1991)..... Harry Hamlin

Grace Van Owen (1986-1992)..... Susan Dey

Ann Kelsey..... Jill Eikenberry

Arnie Becker..... Corbin Bernsen

Stuart Markowitz..... Michael Tucker

Victor Sifuentes (1986-1991)..... Jimmy Smits

Abby Perkins (1986-1991)..... Michele Greene

Roxanne Melman (1986-1993)..... Susan Ruttan

Elizabeth Brand (1986-1988)..... Ellen Drake

Sheila Brackman (1986-1988)..... Joanna Frank

Hilda Brunschweiger (1986-1987)..... Patricia Huston

Iris Hubbard (1986-1987)..... Cynthia Harris

Benny Stulwicz (1987-1994)..... Larry Drake

Jonathan Rollins (1987-1994)..... Blair Underwood

Alison Gottlieb (1988-1989)..... Joyce Hyser

David Meyer (1988-1990)..... Dann Florek

Dorothy Wyler (1989)..... Nancy Vawter

Rosalind Shays (1989-1991)..... Diana Muldaur

Corrine Hammond (1989-1991)..... Jennifer Hetrick

Diane Moses (1989-1990)..... Renee Jones

Murray Melman (1990)..... Vincent Gardenia

Gwen Taylor (1990-1993)..... Sheila Kelley

Tommy Mullaney (1990-1994)..... John Spencer

Cara Jean (C.J.) Lamb (1990-1992)..... Amanda Donohoe

Zoey Clemmons (1991-1992)..... Cecil Hoffmann

Billy Castroverti (1991-1992)..... Tom Verica

Susan Bloom (1991-1992)..... Conchata Ferrell

Frank Kittredge (1991-1992)..... Michael Cumpsty

Daniel Morales (1992-1994)..... A Martinez

Eli Levinson (1993-1994)..... Alan Rosenberg

Denise Ianello (1993-1994)..... Debi Mazar

Jane Halliday (1993-1994)..... Alexandra Powers

Melinda Paros (1993-1994)..... Liza Jane

Rosalie (1993-1994)..... Kathleen Wilhoite

SYNOPSIS

This critically acclaimed ensemble drama was one of the hits of the 1986 season. Created by Steven Bochco (creator of Hill Street Blues) and Terry Louise Fisher (producer of Cagney and Lacey, and a former Deputy D.A. herself), it looked like Hill Street in a fancy law office, with many characters and stories intertwined in each episode.

The high-powered Los Angeles law firm of McKenzie, Brackman, Chaney and Kuzak took on cases of all types, criminal and civil, usually for high fees (though they also did some “pro bono” work for the poor). Leland McKenzie was the esteemed fatherly senior partner; Brackman, the vain, insufferable, balding partner struggling to fill his late father’s formidable shoes; Kuzak, the savvy but compassionate younger partner; Van Owen, the idealistic Deputy D.A. who was Kuzak's lover and sometime courtroom opponent; Ann, another idealistic attorney; Stuart, the firm's nebbishy little tax attorney, who had a heart of gold and also had the hots for Ann; Arnie, the sleazy, womanizing divorce lawyer (whose object was often to create discord in order to produce a more profitable case); Victor, the uptight young Hispanic brought into the firm to meet racial quotas, and knew it; Abby, the unsure-of-herself young intern; and Roxanne, the motherly receptionist. Added in 1987 were Jonathan, a young black lawyer, and Benny, a retarded office worker – one of the few continuing portrayals in TV series history of a retarded person.

Plenty of office politics and sexual adventures were mixed in with the cases (Markowitz and Kelsey angling to become partners, Kuzak lusting after Van Owen, Markowitz after Kelsey, Becker after everybody). Perhaps the series most publicized early episode was the one in which a bigamist-client taught Stuart a secret sexual maneuver guaranteed to melt down any woman – the “Venus Butterfly.” Viewers never learned what it was, but Ann was his.

Other continuing stories unfolded soap-opera style. Abby left the firm to set up her own shaky practice, but eventually returned. Van Owen was named a judge, then resigned to join McKenzie, Brackman. Arnie produced a best-selling do-it-yourself divorce video in partnership with Roxanne's incredibly boring husband David, a direct-mail entrepreneur. He soon had use for it himself. After years of seducing rich, beautiful women, Arnie finally “settled down” and married Corrine, only to fall off the sexual wagon with, among others, of all people, his loyal, plain-Jane secretary, Roxanne.

The most famous storyline began in 1989 with the arrival of hard-driving Rosalind Shays, a super-successful but unlikable litigator who was brought in as a partner to rejuvenate sagging revenues. Roz took over with a vengeance, wooing Leland in the process, but was eventually forced out in a battle royal that almost destroyed the firm. (Her subsequent lawsuit cost the remaining partners $2.1 million.) She met an abrupt end in March 1991 when she accidentally stepped into an empty elevator shaft and plunged to her death.

Besides its soap-opera entanglements, L.A. Law emphasized outrageous situations and trendy cases. Cases touched on such diverse subjects as the “outing” of prominent homosexuals, dwarf tossing, anti-American discrimination in Japanese firms, insurance companies that refused to cover AIDS medication, and a case involving a businessman with Tourette’s Syndrome – causing him to involuntarily blurt out obscenities at the most inopportune moments.

Major cast changes occurred in 1990. Kuzak angrily left to set up his own firm, causing yet another change in the company’s name to McKenzie, Brackman, Chaney, and Becker. (Chaney, by the way, had died at his desk in the premiere episode.) Arriving were three very different attorneys: Tommy Mullaney, an anti-establishment maverick who worked on commission because he couldn't stand “suit and tie shops” like McKenzie, Brackman; Zoey, his ex-wife, an Assistant D.A.; and C.J., a feisty, hot-shot litigator with an English accent, who happened to be bisexual.

Despite the turmoil, the practice of law did have its rewards. The opening titles showed the words “LA LAW” on a California license plate – resting securely on a Jaguar XJ6.

Later seasons brought brash entertainment lawyer Susan Bloom, charged with drumming up new business for the troubled firm; her associate Frank; Grace’s departure for New York; C.J.’s departure to join a golf tour; Rollins’ campaign for city council; Markowitz’s slow emotional recovery from a beating; Benny’s marriage to Rosalie; and the arrival in the last season of Eli and Denise from ABC’s canceled Civil Wars – a rare instance of characters from one series moving to another. By this time the firm called McKenzie, Brackman, Kelsey, Markowitz and Morales. In the May 1994 final episode, father figure Leland McKenzie announced his retirement, effectively closing the doors on L.A. Law.

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