I'll be surprised if the beef producers are not in a fret about Sunday's episode of Boston Legal (February 13, 2005). The main case involved a mayor who had banned the selling of beef in his town. His reason? Beef is toxic. Not only does it cause all sorts of debilities, there is now a question of whether it can be certified as free of Mad Cow Disease. I don't know to what degree the producers used scientific arguments to bolster the arguments of the mayor's attorney. But I have to say, they sounded fairly authentic. And knowing America's TV audience, I'm sure there are many viewers who will take them as valid. After all, there were thousands who believed the X-Files were based on secret government records. We may well be moving into an era when television fiction has more influence on behavior than the news. And, if that's the case, you can't say the newsmen don't deserve it. Whether or not it's a good thing I can't be sure.

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I'm one of those curious TV watchers who believe that television melodramas do better when they concentrate on the activities of their characters rather than on their anguish. In other worlds, I think it's good for policemen to solve crimes, for doctors to fight disease, and for lawyers to argue cases. And it seems to me my proclivity was borne out last night on Boston Legal (November 28, 2004), where the focus was on two situations of underlying seriousness  -- one dealing with whether private eccentricities should allow an employee to be fired, the other with how far one should go in protecting privileged conversations. Finding a way to blend serious issues with comedic behavior is one of the trickiest challenges for dramatic productions. At the moment, they may be moving in the right direction on Boston Legal. I hope so because I tend to like the show.

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©John R. Turner

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