#10 “Betrayal” -- The Practice (1997)
On one level, The Practice is just another show about lawyers. Now shows about lawyers are about as common as Paris Hilton embarrassing herself in public. But what makes this show about lawyers stand out in the midst of the crowd is the guidance of David E. Kelley. The signature mark that Kelley brings to his shows (Picket Fences being a good example) is the ability to examine both sides of an issue with equal clarity. Kelley has never met a straw man. He treats opposing views with such respect that it is nearly impossible to determine what side of an issue he stands on by watching The Practice. Most lawyer shows make the outcome of their trials as obvious as Burt Reynolds’ toupee. But The Practice was one show in which I could never be certain how a judicial decision would come down. And beyond that, sometimes I would find myself becoming sympathetic to an argument that I would have given no credence to going into the show.
The episode “Betrayal” represents the best of The Practice. It is a sharply written episode with a killer plot twist. What makes this episode stand out is the Emmy-nominated (I can’t recall if he won) performance of John Larroquette as Joey Heric, a gay man accused of killing his lover. Joey is a supreme narcissist of unusual intelligence. Joey’s ability to stay one step ahead of every one makes for a fascinating game of cat and mouse. He serves as a vehicle for exploring the fairness and accuracy of our legal system. Through his endless machinations and manipulations, Joey reveals the flaws in a system that relies on the letter of the law. The episode suggests that justice may be blind, but sometimes it can be just plain stupid.