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1994: 'L.A. Law' Ends After Eight Seasons
May 19, 2019  | By David Bianculli
A year before Oliver Stone's Wall Street captured the runaway greed of the eighties, Steven Bochco and Terry Louise Fletcher presented the aggressively upscale lawyer show L.A. Law, which ended its eight-season run on this day in 1994. In its execution as well as its creation, L.A. Law had direct ties to Hill Street Blues, with its overlapping stories, large ensemble cast, and occasional forays into the humorous and the unexpected.

One of the most talked-about aspects of the entire series was the episode in which Michael Tucker's meek Stuart Markowitz was taught a mysterious (and, unfortunately, fictitious) sure-fire sexual technique called the "Venus Butterfly." Another was the time Rosalind Shays, a contentious and disliked law partner played by Diana Muldaur, literally was given the shaft by stepping into an empty elevator shaft and falling to her death. A third was the time Amanda Donohoe's C.J. Lamb surprised Michele Greene's Abby Perkins by kissing her — a plot line that, like many others on this series, never reached full fruition.

The court scenes in L.A. Law remained a consistent strength, but romantic and dramatic subplots got more convoluted and less satisfying after a while; the stars, it seemed, got even more restless than viewers, and many of them, including Jimmy Smits, Harry Hamlin, and ex-Partridge Family member Susan Dey, left (some more than once) partway through the show's run.

The seventh season, which had Markowitz suffer a head injury during the South Central Los Angeles riots after the Rodney King verdict, was the all-time L.A. Law low point, but the series made a strong comeback in the fall of 1993 by adding two characters from Civil Wars, Debi Mazar's Denise Iannello and Alan Rosenberg's Eli Levinson, to its roster.

Civil Wars had been created by William L. Finkelstein, a supervising producer on L.A. Law who left after four seasons to start his own courtroom show on ABC. When he returned to L.A. Law, it was as executive producer, and the first thing he did after the cancellation of Civil Wars was to import two of that show's popular characters — an unprecedented display of cooperation between nonspinoff series from different networks.

Speaking of cooperation: during Finkelstein's initial stint on L.A. Law, his writing partner most of the time had been David E. Kelley, who had taken over as executive producer when Bochco left the show in 1989. Three years later, Kelley, like Finkelstein before him, left the womb of L.A. Law to create his own series — in Kelley's case, the superb Picket Fences and the often outstanding Chicago Hope.

The finale episode of L.A. Law was less bang than whimper; it set the stage for possible reunion telemovies, but didn't put any effort into even temporarily lowering the curtain.

—Excerpted from Dictionary of Teleliteracy: Television's 500 Biggest Hits, Misses and Events

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