Reviews

The Practice

Bernadette Adams Davis

The attorneys on ABC's 'The Practice' can't catch a break.


The Practice

Airtime: Sundays, 10pm ET
Cast: Dylan McDermott, Camryn Manheim, Kelli Williams, Steve Harris, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Michael Badalucco, Lara Flynn Boyle, Marla Sokoloff, Jessica Capshaw
Network: ABC
Creator: David E. Kelley
Amazon

The attorneys on ABC's The Practice can't catch a break. Donnell, Young, Dole, & Frutt, the little law firm that could, always seems to be representing one of its own in a criminal case. It's a wonder anyone in Boston will hire them. Maybe it's that whole jailhouse lawyer thing that gets them over.

Season 6 of the series, one of ABC's few big hits, is no different. Right at the start, Lindsey (Kelli Williams) avoided a conviction and naturally, she's back at work. In the sixth episode of the season, "The Telltale Nation," there's a different sort of conviction at stake.

Ellenor (Camryn Manheim) and Eugene's (Steve Harris) client, Arvin Grayson (Tim Quill), says his Catholic priest raped him as a teenager. His best friend, Walter Beck (Ray Proscia), told Grayson that he ought to see the father for counseling. Beck forgot to mention that the spiritual healing might include getting butt naked before the priest.

So Grayson sues. The show opens as his attorneys tell him the defense is offering a settlement. But Grayson won't be low-balled with a measly $8,000. He asks, "Is that the going rate for manual rape?"

There it is. Before the first break, David E. Kelley has punched his way through our carefully sanitized dialogue about the priest scandal. If we all just keep calling it "molestation," the images of children and teenagers being sexually battered by priests aren't as clear. Call it "manual rape" and the squirm quotient is magnified.

Kelley's show has often pushed ethical and moral questions, sometimes to the extreme, as when the lawyers had to decide what to do when a client brought them a severed head. You know, regular law firm challenges. But this "Catholic Church" episode does more than steal ideas from the headlines. It takes a stand on the sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and the Church leadership's failure to take responsibility for the crimes committed under its auspices.

The focus is on Bobby (Dylan McDermott), a faithful Catholic who feels put upon as all around him shake their heads about the terrible molesting priests. Bobby feels Eugene and Ellenor do their client a disservice by not taking the settlement and a subsequent, higher offer. He's also angry that they didn't take the firm's finances into account. After Bobby's outburst and retreat into his Office, we see Eugene give a slight tilt of his head and, as in nearly every episode, he goes inside to confront his partner.

The power struggles between Bobby and Eugene provide the tightest moments for the series. Eugene's righteous attitude and Bobby's presumption of privilege (both because he's white and the firm's founder) give each of their battles juice. On the abuse, Eugene spits it right out: he's biased against Catholics, because they've continued to support the Church and they haven't been angry enough about the abuse. He says Bobby and the rest of the faithful ought to shut down the Church and start a new one.

And Eugene isn't alone. Lindsey, Bobby's wife, cops to Catholic bias generated by the abuse scandals. She makes it clear that their infant son, Bobby, Jr., will never be a Catholic. She can't stomach the thought of him being alone with a priest. It's her belief that until the Church drops its demand for celibacy, there will be a disproportionate number of molesters in the priesthood.

While Bobby is pondering his relationship to the Church and the state of the priesthood, Lindsey and Jamie Stringer (Jessica Capshaw), are handling a very different and initially ridiculous case.

Louise Farcher (Suzanne Krull) and Albert Ball (William Francis McGuire) come to the firm together, though their dispute is with each other. Albert is a fairly non-descript guy, but Louise, a geeky-looking woman is more than a little strange. Her loud lovemaking noises are causing problems, according to Albert, her neighbor and former lover. But neither has filed a suit since they are looking for mediation. That turns out to be unnecessary when Albert is found dead in Louise's apartment. Lindsey heard about a shooting at the apartment and sent Bobby to check it out, because she just can't. She's still too shaky from her own recent tribulations.

Louise says Albert came at her with a knife, saying he would stab her in the heart. Her response to the attack? "Zeus in heaven!" This is Louise's special little phrase, which she uses so much that, when Jamie researches boyfriend murders in Denver and Cleveland, it's easy to connect them to Louise, since one report quotes the murderess saying, "Zeus in heaven!" That and the fact that Louise's picture with another name appears in a news account. So, Jamie's first big client is a serial killer (whom the cops have let off, because they don't know about the other identities and murders). Now Jamie fits right in with The Practice crew. She has a client who's getting off, and though she knows the woman's a serial killer, she has to figure out what to do about it.

The surprise twist keeps the show from feeling like a class in ethics. The answers here are not black and white, but some murky shade of gray. And, as is often the case, the rules tie the attorneys' hands, even when they clearly have the goods on a killer. Though the focus of the episode is a condemnation of the Church's irresponsibility, a heavy-duty social crisis, Kelley redirects the viewer's attention to fare more typical of the series, as if to remind us that his stories won't always address the big questions.

In the end, Bobby decides it's his moral responsibility to leave the Church. His priest, Father Patrick (Robert Prosky), tries to talk him out of it, but Bobby counters, "What can you say, Father? Molestation gets a bad rap?" Father Patrick warns him, "When you leave the Church, you leave the faith." But for Bobby, the decision is about "spiritual and moral leadership" in the Church and the lack of true penance on the issue of sexually abusive priests. And what will Bobby, who has gone to his priest when grappling with the numerous moral dilemmas of his practice, do now? Well, the next time he's faced with a case that challenges his ethical and moral assumptions, maybe he can call on Zeus.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less
Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.


In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

Next Page
Related Articles Around the Web
Film

Subverting the Romcom: Mercedes Grower on Creating 'Brakes'

Julian Barratt and Oliver Maltman (courtesy Bulldog Film Distribution)

Brakes plunges straight into the brutal and absurd endings of the relationships of nine couples before travelling back to discover the moments of those first sparks of love.

The improvised dark comedy Brakes (2017), a self-described "anti-romcom", is the debut feature of comedienne and writer, director and actress Mercedes Grower. Awarded production completion funding from the BFI Film Fund, Grower now finds herself looking to the future as she develops her second feature film, alongside working with Laura Michalchyshyn from Sundance TV and Wren Arthur from Olive productions on her sitcom, Sailor.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less
Books

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image