Prior to the show's premiere, it had a working title of Fleet Street, an allusion to the real street in Boston where the fictitious Crane, Poole & Schmidt had its offices. The working title was later modified to The Practice: Fleet Street, but this title was dropped in favor of Boston Legal before the show premiered. The real building shown as the law office is located at 500 Boylston Street, 1.4 miles away from Fleet Street.
The American producers of the series also hired British writer Sir John Mortimer (creator of the UK legal series Rumpole of the Bailey) as a consultant for Boston Legal.
The pilot was originally produced with former The Practice stars James Spader and Rhona Mitra, The Practice guest stars William Shatner and Lake Bell, Mark Valley and an expanded storyline featuring Larry Miller as Edwin Poole and John Michael Higgins as senior partner Jerry Austin. Monica Potter was later cast as junior partner Lori Colson and Rene Auberjonois as senior partner Paul Lewiston, replacing John Michael Higgins. The pilot premiered on ABC on October 3, 2004.
On November 30, 2004, it was announced that Candice Bergen would join the cast as senior partner Shirley Schmidt, a character the producers had planned to introduce for several months. Lake Bell left the series mid-season, and Rene Auberjonois was promoted to main cast member.Anthony Heald and Betty White also made regular guest appearances, having both appeared as the same characters on The Practice.
On April 5, 2005, the series was renewed for a second season, although ABC chose not to screen the final five episodes of the first season until April 24, 2005 to allow greater exposure of mid-season series Grey's Anatomy to a larger audience. The success of Grey's Anatomy placed Boston Legal on hold until autumn 2005, when it returned for an extended season of twenty-seven episodes. Both Rhona Mitra and Monica Potter left the series during the hiatus, while Julie Bowen was cast as Denise Bauer. Ryan Michelle Bathe and Justin Mentell were later cast as junior associates Sara Holt and Garrett Wells. The second episode of Season 3 introduced Craig Bierko as Jeffrey Coho and Constance Zimmer as Claire Simms. In episode eleven guest star Gary Anthony Williams joined the cast, with Craig Bierko leaving in episode fifteen.
On June 4, 2007, TV Guide announced that Rene Auberjonois, Julie Bowen, Mark Valley, and Constance Zimmer would not return for the fourth season. On June 13, 2007, it was announced that actor John Larroquette (former The Practice guest star) would join the cast as a senior partner transferred from the New York offices of Crane, Poole & Schmidt, with actress Tara Summers joining as a young associate. Christian Clemenson (former The Practice guest star), who had guest-starred occasionally as Jerry Espenson (a brilliant but socially inept lawyer) – was promoted to main cast. Production also stated that Rene Auberjonois, Mark Valley, Julie Bowen, and Constance Zimmer may return in guest roles. On July 2, 2007, it was reported that both Rene Auberjonois and Mark Valley would return in recurring roles; It was also announced that Taraji P. Henson would join the cast in the fourth season, with Saffron Burrows appearing in a recurring role. Burrows later became a full-time cast member.
On May 13, 2008, ABC announced that Boston Legal would return for a fifth (and final) season in the fall. Saffron Burrows did not return as a series regular, having joined the cast of My Own Worst Enemy. The final season consisted of 13 episodes to reach the "100" episode mark, which facilitated successful syndication. There was speculation that Boston Legal might receive an additional episode-order if the show had another strong showing in the Emmy Awards and produced solid ratings in its new fall time slot. The season began airing on September 22, 2008.
On June 18 and June 20, 2008, it was reported that Gary Anthony Williams and Taraji P. Henson would not return for the fifth season as Clarence Bell and Whitney Rome respectively. On July 17, 2008, Boston Legal was nominated for a series-high seven Emmy nominations, including for Best Drama Series for the second concurrent year. Spader, Bergen, and Shatner were each nominated for their respective roles.
Boston Legal's two-hour-long series finale aired on Monday, December 8, 2008, at 9:00PM Eastern/8:00PM Central. David E. Kelley stated in an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on December 7, 2008 that it was ABC's decision to end Boston Legal, and that he "had to fight to bring it back for a short season of 13 episodes".
The series features a trademark routine whereby characters would occasionally break the fourth wall and make comments implying they are aware that they are characters in a television show. Shatner, being famous for portraying Captain Kirk, also makes occasional Star Trek references.
The series currently airs in syndication on TV Land.
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