'L.A. Law' celebrates its 100th episode with NBC special


Isn't it a great coincidence how anniversary specials always seem to fall during a "sweeps" ratings period?

"Cheers" 200th episode anniversary show aired last May, a "Dallas" anniversary the May before that. And, tonight at 10 on WMAR-TV (Channel 2), "The L.A. Law 100th Episode Special" celebrates the upcoming 100th episode.

NBC doesn't say exactly when the "upcoming" 100th episode will air. But who's counting? Besides, any network these days that has a show run for that long deserves some self-congratulations -- especially when it is a show as culturally appropriate to its times as "L.A. Law" has been.

Tonight's show doesn't really delve much into how "L.A. Law" has shown a few healthy slices of American life since its debut Sept. 15, 1986. The special is essentially a fan-magazine celebration of the series, an authorized biography with Jane Pauley as biographer. Pauley hosts this special, which consists of interviews, clips from the stars' favorite moments and backstage looks.

The focus of those favorite moments is sexuality and outrageous humor.

Baltimore's Michael Tucker says his favorite scene is one he played with his real-life wife, Jill Eikenberry. The scene features Tucker's Stuart Markowitz in bed with Eikenberry's Ann Kelsey. A very satisfied Kelsey asks Markowitz where he learned his technique. "You mean the Venus Butterfly?" a smug Markowitz replies.

What the show doesn't talk much about is the universe Steven Bochco and Terry Lousie Fisher created. They showed us people (most of them decent) trying to live (most of them with some moral compass) in a legal system and corporate world that makes survival, let alone decency and morality, a battle.

The boardroom where the members of McKenzie, Brackman, Chaney, Kuzak and Becker meet is a microcosm of corporate America today. And one of the things that attracts so many viewers to the show is that, for all the scheming and backbiting, they have created a kinder and gentler corporate America, where folks with special needs -- like Benny, who is mentally retarded -- can work and live with dignity.

This special gets a little goopy and a lot self-serving at times, with Pauley asking silly, fan-magazine questions. But "L.A. Law" has showed us enough about ourselves and the '80s-trying-to-become-a-better-'90s that it has earned the right to be goopy, silly and self-serving once every hundred episodes or so.

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