Question: On what NBC program did Corbin Bernsen play a lawyer?

Televisionary: Former soap actor (Ryan's Hope) Bernsen played womanizing attorney Arnie Becker on Steven Bochco's groundbreaking L.A. Law, which practiced on NBC from October 1986 to May 1994. He's had TV work since and a string of movie roles, but it's likely he'll be best remembered for the time put in on that long-running series.

I use groundbreaking as a backhanded compliment, really. With Law, Bochco fine-tuned the multithread, hour-long dramatic formula he helped pioneer with the critically acclaimed but ratings-starved Hill Street Blues to create a bona fide hit in Law. His secret? More soap opera elements, more glitz and prettier faces (all of which were easier to introduce using the slick legal profession instead of the gritty precinct of Hill Street, though he later pulled it off in the cop world, too, on NYPD Blue).

To the show's credit, the heated soap opera storylines involved both characters with movie-star looks (Harry Hamlin, Susan Dey) and ordinary-joe faces (Michael Tucker, Susan Ruttan). And if Bochco and Co. later made sure to keep the beauty and sexual quotient up (Blair Underwood, the bisexual lawyer played by Amanda Donohoe), who's to blame them? You do what you must to keep a show on the air and Law, to my mind decidedly inferior to Hill Street, enjoyed markedly better ratings.

Just ask David E. Kelley, who cut his teeth on the show before moving on and employing the sex-and-litigation formula to gain gazillionaire status with The Practice and Ally McBeal.