I admit it: I have a crush on Candace Bergen. It all started, for me, with Murphy Brown. As someone who was raised (quite well, thank you very much) by a single mother, I adored her for taking on Dan Quayle's small-minded views of what constitutes "family." And as the brassy, educated and outspoken Murphy, Bergen took on issues like freedom of the press, a woman's right to choose and political incompetency with intelligence and humor. I recorded every episode of Murphy Brown (those were the days of the VCR) and relished every moment.
Today, Bergen is playing another strong woman on TV. This time it's Shirley Schmidt, a partner in the Boston Legal law firm of Crane Poole & Schmidt. And on October 17th, Shirley takes on another important social issue: gays in the military. Needless to say, it's bound to be a TiVO-worthy moment. Set your recorders now.
According to the ABC website for the show, General "Fitz" Fitzgerald shows up at the firm to catch up with his old friend Denny Crane (played to absolute Emmy-winning perfection by William Shatner). Fitz has a secret, though: He's gay, and the Army is threatening to discharge him.
Denny, the pro-gun, GOP partner of the firm, who constantly reminds his colleagues of his battle with 'the mad cow,' will naturally have issues with Fitz's revelation. Shirley, however, will naturally have none of it. She takes on Fitz's case, and takes the military to task over "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
Will she win? We won't know until October 17, but one thing is for sure: David E. Kelly's smart writing and Bergen's expert acting will make for an entertaining hour of thought-provoking television.
In fact, Boston Legal has taken on a number of hot topics in the news during its run, including global warming, discrimination, sexism and corporate greed. Arianna Huffington has called herself a "Boston Legal addict," and even hosted the cast and crew for a discussion about the show recently.
The hour-long dramedy is, no question, one of the smartest shows on television. The lawyers at Crane Poole & Schmidt have represented Katrina victims, Guantanmo detainees and, yes, even a very murderous Betty White. Huffington said that she can't imagine how Kelly, the show's creator, does it, but "maybe he could teach the people in Washington how."
We could certainly use some Boston Legal-like smarts here in the capital. And we could definitely use more smart women like Bergen taking on the tough issues. Even though "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," regardless of the outcome of Shirley's case, will be in place after the episode airs, that doesn't mean Candace Bergen won't have an impact on the issue down the road.
Just ask Dan Quayle.