Even if you weren't a fan of the FOX program, Ally McBeal, this new show's whimsical spirit will still amuse you. Being that both focus on big city, single lawyers who have hallucinations, some may see Eli Stone is merely a male version of Ally. Instead of Al Green, or Barry White, Eli sees and dances to George Michael, but this new show also strives for loftier goals.
Ally was simply a neurotic woman in search of love. Her hallucinations stemmed from the fact that she could never find it, or rather no man could live up to the standard of her first love, Billy, whom she lost early in life. Therefore, she invented this inner life that was fantastical and magical, and most often musical, elements that spill out in her real life as hallucinations.
For Eli, who works for a big corporate firm in San Francisco, his visions are manifested from a brain aneurysm that is totally inoperable. Eli's brother, Nathan, the doctor who diagnoses the aneurysm, informs Eli that he could live a long, normal life, or the aneurysm could burst tomorrow and Eli could hemorrhage to death.
Before this revelation, Eli was an atheist who only worshipped the holy trinity of Armani, assessories and ambition. He hated his father and loved the fact that his big company crushed and conquered the little guy, making him richer and others poorer.
Victor Garber stars as Jordan Wethersby, the archetype for what Eli hoped to become. Jordan is one of the partners of the big law firm that employs Eli. Jordan is an amazing attorney. He's smart and dedicated. Eli dates and even is engaged to Jordan's daughter named Taylor, played by Natasha Henstridge. Taylor is probably just as ambitious as Eli used to be.
Loretta Divine plays Patti, Eli's sassy, secretary who lives to jab Eli anytime she gets the chance, to put him in his place, and tell him how much she hates Taylor. She certainly keeps him grounded. Despite Eli being her boss, she for the most part orders him around. She takes none of his attitude, or his newfound craziness, but she does care for him, and all that comes through funnily through Divine's performance, which steals every scene she's in.
In fact, it's Patti who advises Eli, after learning of his condition, not to go to the best, most expensive doctors to seek treatment for his aneurysm, but instead to go to a faux acupuncturist named Dr. Chen. Chen sticks needles in people to relieve any ailment and solve any mystery. Eli realizes it's a bit of a sham, but after seeing a gay British pop star dancing on his coffee table, he's open to anything.
Dr. Chen thinks Eli's hallucinations are indications that Eli is a prophet, not unlike Abraham, Moses or Muhammad. Eli hears George Michael's music, and sees very well choreographed dance numbers, which lead him to the cases he's supposed to tackle. The various other hallucinations, which have included cable cars in the middle of office buildings and airplanes chasing him down North By Northwest style, guide Eli, and inform him of truths about himself, about his cases, and the world, or so he thinks.
Eli's first case is very much Erin Brockovich. The girl with whom Eli lost his virginity enlists him to take on a drug company whose vaccine she believes caused her son's autism. The writing of the court scenes are very reminiscent of those of David E. Kelly who executive produced and was main scribe for Ally McBeal and The Practice. It's funny because a cast member from The Practice even appears in several episodes of the show.
I feel like those are already enough lawyer shows. From Law & Order, and its various spin-offs to Boston Legal, to all the TV lawyer incarnations, past and present, yes, there are too many, but this one is very well done. It may bring nothing new to the table, but it does so very well. The main actor, Jonny Lee Miller, who plays Eli, is earnest and believable.
The show stands as a very heart-touching diversion. It also comes as a good vehicle for topical discussions, such as the autism case, or even nuanced issues like black-on-black racism, and even the recent steroid scandal. Its gimmick of George Michael songs and musical visions are just that... gimmicks, but they're fun.
Five Stars out of Five
Airs Thursday at 10 p.m.