NEW YORK POST
The Practice

By Michele Greppi

"THE Practice" finds David E. Kelley at his best and worst -- which to some of us is the same thing.

This is a producer who creates promising characters and then refuses to leave well enough alone.

Kelley did his utmost to suck the life out of middle Americana in "Picket Fences" and the saving graces out of "Chicago Hope," and now he's come back to malpractice on the law.

"The Practice" is boilerplate Kelley: Juris extremis writ in broad, often childish strokes; an attractive cast; and in-your-face guest stars.

As gloom-and-doomed legal dramas go, "Civil Wars" -- created by Kelley's "L.A. Law" mentor, Steven Bochco -- was far more fun.

The chief saving graces are Dylan McDermott and Steve Harris, who have faces with sweeping planes that put intelligent acting on exquisite display.

McDermott plays Bobby Donnell, whose small Boston law firm is in the red, so it's not always possible to be in the right.

Harris plays Eugene Young ("Murder One"), a lawyer whose aptitude is attitude, whether it's talking around a toothpick or explaining his sense of smell.

Camryn Manheim is Valkyrian lawyer Ellenor Frutt, Kelli Williams is adorable lawyer Lindsay Dole, Lisa Gay Hamilton is the obligatory better-than-receptionist Rebecca Washington, and Linda Hunt is a short-tempered judge.

Tonight, Bobby pressures an innocent girl to plead guilty because he's terrified of losing.

Lindsay faces a former law professor (Edward Herrmann) when her client charges a tobacco company with wrongful death.

A flasher says NAFTA made him do it.

"In my experience, genitalia rarely collides with sunlight because of a U.S. trade agreement," says Eugene.

In upcoming episodes, an incendiary rabbi (Arye Gross) will abet vigilante justice and Bobby will dance with the devil after his priest kills a schizophrenic woman on whom he's conducting a placebo exorcism.

But believability and taste will bottom out when it takes a whole hour to decide whether a sigmoidoscope stays in or comes out of a man who gives new meaning to pain in the butt.

THE END

Transcript courtesy of New York Post1997 All Rights Reserved

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