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The Judge greeted the news of an “L.A. Law” reunion movie with incredulity. Not at the fact that NBC would pull a ratings stunt like this. (They’re shameless.) Not that the actors would have better things to do. (They don’t. As will be made clear onward.) But with the accompanying news that it has been only eight years since the show went off the air in the first place. Eight years seems like a long time, but it really isn’t. It doesn’t compute that “L.A. Law” — the seminal lawyers-are-sexy show, the one that Dylan McDermott should light a candle of gratitude to every evening before he sleeps — continued as late as 1994. “L.A. Law” was, at its heart, a show about the 1980s, with all of its mass consumption and self-absorption ethos. The show fit snugly in a zeitgeist that gave us “Wall Street,” “Bonfire of the Vanities,” “Barbarians at the Gate” and George Michael. The series made being a lawyer cool in a way far different than the Perry Mason-Atticus Finch tradition of the past. Lawyers wore great clothes, drove Porsches and worked in a firm filled with interesting, collegial partners. In other words, it was mainly a fantasy. But the show did swell the ranks of law schools in the same way “All the President’s Men” made a generation of college kids want to wear corduroy jackets and knit ties. It combined with “Cheers” to create NBC’s original “Must See TV” (v. 1.0). So, the lawyers from Los Angeles’ McKenzie-Brackman are back. (“L.A. Law: The Movie” airs this Sunday night, May 12.) And they are pretty much right where you left them. For other long-running shows, that might strain believability. But law firms stand immune to the passage of time at a pace matched only by Mary Hart’s face and George Plimpton’s wardrobe. It is entirely conceivable, then, that law firm partners Arnie Becker (Corbin Bernsen), Douglas Brackman (Alan Rachins), and Stuart Markowitz (Michael Tucker) are hanging around, working in the same offices, with the same art on the walls, taking meetings in the same conference rooms, and having the same conversations. If this were truly TV v�rit�, many of them would be wearing the same clothes, with coffee and donut stains on their too-skinny ties. (One significant thing is different, though. “L.A. Law: The Movie” is shot in Vancouver, not SoCal, for budget reasons. The movie gives us one establishing shot of Bernsen driving his Porsche on an L.A. freeway, then it’s off to misty Canada and cheap nonunion labor.) Just as in assorted “Gilligan” and “Brady” reunifications, some of the old cast members are nowhere to be found, however. Fiery Victor Sifuentes (Jimmy Smits) didn’t make the trip. But then, we all remember that he went on to die in “NYPD Blue” in that weird episode with that old boxer and the pigeons. There’s no sign of silky-smooth Jonathan Rollins (Blair Underwood) either. But it isn’t as if Smits and Underwood have artistic reasons to turn their noses up at this musty piece of Sweeps Month cheese. According to the Judge’s reliable friend (and perhaps his only friend, along with a bottle of Jameson’s, that he can really trust — but then, that’s another story), the Internet Movie Database, Underwood recently starred in “Final Breakdown” on the USA Network. (“Rayne Johnson is a shrewd investment company assistant who turns a mob slaying into a golden opportunity for a new improved lifestyle.”) In fact, none of the McKenzie-Brackman gang have exactly Clooneyized their way to knockin’ boots with Jennifer Lopez or Julia Roberts on the silver screen. On the contrary, most of them have been beached upon the Island of Misfit Toys that sits in that vast cable wasteland beyond HBO. For instance, Harry Hamlin, back to reprise his role as gravelly voiced Michael Kuzak, has been spending his time in the cable ghetto making these fine family films: “Badge of Betrayal,” “Her Deadly Rival,” “Poisoned by Love: The Kern County Murders,” “Deliver Them From Evil: The Taking of Alta View” and my favorite, “In the Best of Families: Marriage, Pride and Madness.” So, early in the “L.A. Law” movie, when the retired Leland McKenzie (Richard Dysart) tells Hamlin’s Kuzak that “I get the feeling you’ve been waiting for something like this to come along,” it doesn’t take much to glean the double meaning therein. Hamlin’s fellow thespians haven’t been doing much better. Jill Eikenberry, who played Ann Kelsey on “L.A. Law,” and Susan Dey, who played Assistant District Attorney Grace Van Owen, virtually held the Lifetime network hostage in a near-endless series of TV movies featuring colons in their titles. Eikenberry’s r�sum� includes the films “Dare to Love,” “Journey to Love,” “Tell Laura I Love Her” and “Cast the First Stone: The Diane Martin Story.” Meanwhile, Dey has thrust upon the world “Love, Lies and Lullabies,” “Deadly Love,” “Beyond Betrayal” (the Judge is unsure what lies beyond betrayal, as betrayal is a pretty bad thing) and “Whose Child Is This: The War for Baby Jessica.” You can make the argument that the one cast member who has made the largest impact in film has been mentally disabled savant/moral guidepost/office worker Benny (Larry Drake). Drake appeared as the bad guy in “Darkman” and “Darkman II: The Return of Durant,” two movies that were actually released in movie theaters. That, and the fact that Drake somehow wormed his way into a role in “American Pie 2: The Return of Those Crazy Teens From American Pie,” means that his movies have probably made more coin than all of the other cast members’ added together. (And yes, Corbin Bernsen, we aren’t forgetting that you appeared in “Major League” and “Major League 2: The Same Movie As Major League Except Wesley Snipes Wouldn’t Do It.”) So none of these actors can even climb into the same wrestling ring with David Caruso, the legendary King of Bad Judgment, the guy who left the aforementioned “NYPD Blue” for movie stardom and ended up wrapping fish in Miami. Not even Hamlin, whose hair and face have become so creased and craggy that it looks like he was folded and put away in a drawer for the last five years. But Judge, Judge, you say. What is the plot? Tell us the plot. Or maybe you aren’t saying that. Maybe it’s just those voices again. (And if it’s just those voices again, listen to me, Voices. I don’t believe Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman have given birth to the Antichrist, no matter what you keep saying.) Anyway, the plot. Well, it’s the same as any TV lawyer plot. Take some likeable poor bastard who is sitting on death row for a crime he didn’t commit, give him just a few weeks to live, and find a lawyer who will take the case with all hope exhausted. (And start that oh-so-’80s sax riff and booming electronic drum beat.) In this case, that lawyer is Hamlin, who, smartly enough, has left the practice of law altogether and now operates a “trendy” L.A. restaurant. As viewers, we instantly know that Hamlin is no longer a lawyer because the first time we see him, he’s wearing a leather jacket. (It’s probably one he got from the USA Network. Look carefully for the logo.) Ten years before, Hamlin’s Michael Kuzak represented the poor bastard on death row when he was convicted. But now there’s new evidence, based (of course) on a prostitute’s shaky testimony, and Kuzak can’t resist the call to arms. He heads for his old stomping grounds, McKenzie-Brackman, for some assistance. But the firm isn’t the same. Grandfatherly Leland McKenzie has given way to the my-briefs-are-too-tight stylings of Douglas Brackman. Brackman, who never much cared for the swingin’ Kuzak to begin with, tells Kuzak to take a hike. Kuzak tries to visit the retired McKenzie in his greenhouse upstate only to find out that McKenzie has somehow turned into Wilford Brimley. Meanwhile, still-zany-after-all-these-years marrieds Kelsey and Markowitz have fallen under the spell of a New Age con man and have been cleaned out of their savings. And Arnie Becker is facing an ugly divorce and the wrath of an opposing divorce lawyer, the once-plucky Abby Perkins (Michele Greene). There’s also a subplot involving office manager Roxanne (Susan Ruttan) and her ex-husband, but just like in the 1980s, the Judge couldn’t stand Roxcentric episodes, so he didn’t pay much attention. She still brings the proceedings to a screeching halt. And Susan Dey, whose face seems to have been stretched into a permanent frown, returns as Van Owen and gets to say lines like this: “In my heart, I’m a prosecutor. That was true when we loved each other.” (Robert Cray, can’t you turn this into some sort of a lyric?) What happens? Twists. Turns. Lots of overruled objections and heart-to-heart talks by the watercooler. Benny is the paragon of decency, and Arnie is the sexually harassing scumbag. In short, nothing has changed. But that isn’t so bad. These actors inhabit these characters like old friends. And it isn’t hard to imagine further “L.A. Law” movies. After all, it isn’t as if these folks have anything better going on. Judge Dread presides over the toughest court of all: The Court of Public Opinion. He remains upset that ex-lawyer Michael Kuzak owns a restaurant and drives a Ferrari convertible, while the Judge just finished making payments on his 1993 Toyota Paseo.

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