If you want to know what character development and chemistry between actors is all about, you must watch James Spader and William Shatner on ABC's BOSTON LEGAL. I think you can honestly learn more about the art of acting and the craft of character writing from watching these two work off each other than from majoring in theater at a university. BOSTON LEGAL has its problems (and as a side note, it's fascinating to watch a show with potential struggle to find its voice), but where it focuses on the relationship between Spader's Alan Shore and Shatner's Denny Crane, it never falters.
These are two of the most complex characters broadcast television has ever seen, and the actors render them to life with incredible skill. Anyone who has ever made a Shatner joke or called the man untalented should be forced to run down the street naked singing "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds." His take on Crane is one of the most compelling, heartfelt, and gut-busting performances I have ever seen on the little box that talks. Shore, likewise, really challenges the audience's sense of moral surety. Just when you think he is irredeemably wicked he proves more conscionable than the law itself. And while each actor shines in every scene he is in, each is best in the context of their father/son-like relationship. Whether at war (like in tonight's episode in which Shore plants a butcher's knife in Crane's briefcase to keep him from making it to court on time) or in a moment of tender respite (like when Shore arranges for a one legged woman to sleep with Crane in order to satisfy his secret fetish), the pairing of Spade and Shatner is pure confection.
Be sure to watch this team at work next Sunday on ABC at 10pm.