TV Article

Love and Loss on 'L.A. Law'

ABC's legal drama has people talking about the hot kiss between Amanda Donahoe and Michele Greene, and the upcoming departures of Harry Hamlin, Susan Dey, and Jimmy Smits

L.A. Law's most dramatic moment this season came not in a courtroom but in a courtship — on the night of Feb. 7, when attorney C.J. Lamb (Amanda Donohoe) planted a longer-than-casual kiss on Abby Perkins (Michele Greene). The next morning, the kiss was on everyone else's lips, along with speculation over whether C.J.'s bisexuality — a first for a continuing female TV character — would become an ongoing story line. Approaching its sixth season and weathering a mild ratings dip (it currently ranks 33rd), L.A. Law had gotten what it wanted: buzz.

''I thought it was brilliantly written and provocative in a healthy way,'' says Donohoe, who joined Law's cast this season along with John Spencer (street-smart Tommy Mullaney) and Cecil Hoffmann (prosecutor Zoey Clemmons). ''It's nice to press buttons once in a while. But it came as quite a surprise.''

''It wasn't planned from the beginning,'' says executive producer Rick Wallace. ''But things happen when you watch actors in the conference-room scenes. Looks exchanged between [characters] can give you ideas.'' Though stingy with details, Wallace says the show won't dodge C.J.'s private life. ''You're going to see a C.J. who is 'flexible,' as she puts it. Her experimentalism is never going to be a dead issue.''

At the end of the season, L.A. Law will lose actors Harry Hamlin, Susan Dey, and Jimmy Smits and executive producer David Kelley, who will become a consultant. ''We're in transition,'' admits Wallace. ''In Harry and Jimmy, we're losing the two characters who do the most litigation.'' So the producers have embarked on ''a massive hero hunt'' for one or two actors to add to the ensemble of 12 next fall. ''I'm very pleased with our new characters,'' says Wallace, ''but our eyes are open.'' And so are their options: Wallace says Hamlin, Dey, and Smits could return for short runs. Does that mean the season will end with no fatal car crashes or mysterious diseases?

''We really haven't decided,'' Wallace says. ''But don't you believe in reincarnation?''

Originally posted Mar 22, 1991 Published in issue #58 Mar 22, 1991 Order article reprints