Boston Legal: Was Last Night’s Episode the Series Finale?

Boston LegalIf you watched last night’s season finale of Boston Legal, you might have been a little confused.

At the end of the episode, Alan (James Spader) and Denny (William Shatner) had their usual chat on Denny’s balcony. They reflected on the day, on their sometimes exhausting work, and how much they just wanted to kick back and go fishing together. Denny said, “Let’s go. Now… Let’s hang the gone fishin’ sign on the door and just go.” As music plays in the background, we see the two friends walking down the streets of Boston; wearing their Auxiliary Coast Guard uniforms, laughing, and smoking cigars. As the music continues to play, we see various areas of the empty law firm offices. The final image is of a “Gone Fishin'” sign hanging on Denny’s door. Sounds like a series finale doesn’t it? Well, it was… sort of.

As you might know, Boston Legal was one of those shows “on the bubble” — one of the many semi-popular series whose renewal wasn’t a sure thing. Many those shows’ producers choose to end their seasons with cliffhangers in hopes that that will improve their program’s chances of being renewed.

Legal creator David E. Kelley decided to play it safe. When last night’s episode was being filmed, Kelley knew there was a good chance that the law firm of Crane, Poole and Schmidt wouldn’t be back next season. Rather than possibly leaving the audience hanging, he crafted last night’s episode so that it could serve as either a season or a series finale.

Last night’s episode likely would have been the Legal series finale had it not been for ABC’s interest in another series. Kelley owns the U.S. rights for Life on Mars and ABC wants it for the network’s 2008 – 2009 midseason schedule. Kelley was obligated to produce the series for ABC but either he or the network wanted him off the project. Because he owns the rights, Kelley was able to negotiate a fifth season of Legal as part of his exit deal.

Unfortunately, the renewal came with a price. It was revealed last week that year five will be series’ last. The season will be made up of only 13 episodes; 11 hour-long and a two-hour series finale. Production will begin in June and is expected to wrap in November.

With a reduced show budget, the size of the cast will be significantly reduced. Spader and Christian Clemenson (“Jerry”) are the only two that will be around for sure right now. Shatner and Candice Bergen are likely to be signed soon. Beyond that, it’s hard to say. Saffron Burrows won’t be back for sure since she’s already signed on for a new NBC series called My Own Worst Enemy. The cast purge is reminiscent of the last season of The Practice (Legal’s predecessor) in which series star Dylan McDermott and many others were dropped due to budget cuts.

Could Legal be saved? Possibly but not probably. If the ratings vastly improve, ABC would surely love to bring it back for a sixth season. Unfortunately, that’s not likely to happen. The show will have been around five years and, as is the case with most serial shows, you don’t get many new viewers once a show’s been around that long. On top of that, some existing viewers stop watching. Legal’s audience also skews a bit older which isn’t very attractive to advertisers.

Though next season is scheduled to be Legal’s last, Kelley will likely be writing all 13 hours so you know that they’re going to be something to remember. You can be sure that, at the very least, he’ll give us another fitting Legal series finale. Stay tuned! TV Series Finale home page

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22 Comments · Read them below or add one

  1. Cary says

    I watched the back-to-back final today. It’s as great as ever. I will truly miss the show. Wish they can bring them back. Perhaps Allen and Danny will start a new practice for the poor? That’d be great.
    James Spader, William Shatner, and Candice Burgen, and all others, you guys are fantastic.
    The writer and creator, write more. Can you convince the network to bring back Boston Legal? I love the cigar scenes at the end of each show. I love everything about the show. Thanks.

  2. Mark says

    WHY would ABC cancel this show? I get more to think about from watching this show than any 20-20 episode in recent memory. Terrific actors, great writing with the exception of 2-3 shows in 5 years and nobody is watching? Who is running the ratings here? Everyone I talk to loves this show! Maybe CBS will buy the rights, there is more to watch on that network anyway. This now brings my ABC viewing to exactly zero shows in a week.

  3. Barb says

    I am crestfallen that this show is coming to an end. I watch very little television, but this show is the highlight of my week. I have fallen in love with all the characters-the actors in this series are phenominal. In an hour, they can take your emotions on a daredevil rollercoaster ride. In the course of an hour, I laugh, become indignant, become sad, wince a bit , then laugh again. If this program were in a different time-slot, it would certainly capture more viewers. Bravo to the entire cast and crew of BL. James Spader….an amazing talent. From years ago in The Breakfast Club to today’s BL, he continues to be a standout actor.

  4. Anna D says

    If ABC thinks that they can’t get new viewers in its last season, they are sadly mistaken. I became a huge fan just in November of 2008 as I discovered its reruns on ION Television. I was hooked. I bought the Season 1-4 DVDs and I’m working on catching up. I

  5. Sylvia says

    DO NOT CANCEL BL? And what’s with this “Legal’s audience also skews a bit older which isn’t very attractive to advertisers” crap. what do u mean not attractive to advertisers. as JOhn Larcoette’s character said majority of the population are older and have the disposable income. gimme a break
    so what kind of entertainment are we gonna have. more reality crap
    i miss the hard core entertainment of the past like carol burnett, magnum, happy days. Guess hollywood doesn’t know how to make those shows anymore but can’t fess up to it!

  6. CHRIS BRYAN says

    NO, NO, ABC is not stupid and will spin a new show or continue BL. In this climate success shoud be used not canceled. why shut down success!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. robin dilley Age 32 says

    I’ve watched each and every episode of this phenominal series. The people I know that watch it are far from older- It’s a funny, classy, serious, and sad show wrapped up perfectly with a bow. ABC David E. Kelley has put out some of the best series I’ve ever seen.

  8. Nola says

    Boston Legal is the only show I look forward to every week. I don’t care where you move it to, I will find it. I agree about the reality shows. They stink and are stupit. Please keep the most entertaining show on the air… Boston Legal.

  9. Chris says

    NO! NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!. Altho I accept that every show has a time where it has to end, now is not the time for Boston Legal. I can still see its relevance, its classy humour, and also a growing fanbase (here in England anyway). Michelle is right this “reality” tv crap is, well crap, and unfortunately not a fad, but even if Boston Legal is targeted for an older audience, which I dont think it is, so what!
    From Chris 25, Matty 24, Anna 19, Laura 21 and Liam 14.

  10. Anonymous says

    i think its of of the best show ever in the moment & tha cast 4 the show & i mean Denny Crane and Alan Shore the are the only 2 who keep thes show going ,

  11. Debra says

    We simply cannot live without Denny Crane and Alan Shore. David Kelley is a genius and leaves us wonderfully entertained every week and looking forward to the next episode. The cast of Boston Legal is so much fun with all their little idiosyncrasies that we have come to love. Please don’t leave us. We need you and want to see more of you.

  12. Linda says

    Tell us a way we can help keep this show on? I do not believe people are “quitting” in their watching of Boston Legal. I believe that the network juggles it around so much that we can’t keep track of when the next one is on! Duh….explains less people watching!
    This is one of the few intelligent shows left on TV. All the reality shows are garbage. Most of the game shows are garbage….with the exception being any that take a modicum of intelligence….Jeparody , etal.
    Please credit American’s with a bit of sense and keep the good ones going.

  13. hobbster says

    Are you people crazy. It seems networks are continually taking off all the good entertaining shows, leaving us with nothing but “junk”. Please don’t
    cancel Boston Legal. This show is so entertaining and I look forward to seeing new episodes each week. Spader, Shatner, Bergen and the rest of the cast are GREAT!!!!!

  14. Michele says

    Who would cancel this show? Where exactly are they getting their ratings info and is it even correct? I teach high school and my students watch the show, my former students watch the show, my middle-aged colleagues watch the show. I’m pretty sure we all qualify for somewhere in that all important young to mid-range demographic. Boston Legal was one of the few intelligent shows left on the air. We’re being deluged by idiotic “reality” shows that bear NO resemblance to any reality I’ve ever been a part of. Why? Are we seriously vacuous enough to choose to watch people picking their soulmates on live-television rather than intelligent pseudo-court shows? Have we become too stupid to appreciate shows like Boston Legal? If so, perhaps all the networks will just keep pulling shows off the air until we’re left with nothing except ads, shows about teenagers, and gunfights. Viva America.

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