<P>William Shatner and James Spader, <EM>Boston Legal</EM></P>

William Shatner and James Spader, Boston Legal

Tonight, in an episode rescheduled from Nov. 6, Boston Legal (10:02 pm/ET, ABC) addresses several weighty matters, not least of which is a suit against knucklehead Denny, who fired an associate for being — Mr. Tolerance strikes again — too fat. Why? "Because he's Denny Crane," says executive producer Bill D'Elia. "He read this article — a study from Harvard that's been misinterpreted — which indicated that being fat is likely to make other people fat. The thing that's so entertaining about it is that clearly Denny's wrong."

As usual, Legal weaves a tapestry of intersecting storylines that ranges from the offbeat to the dramatic. One of them is a watershed moment for Jerry Espenson, who anxiously prepares to go on a date with his former client (and fellow Asperger's-syndrome sufferer) Leigh. "It's the evolution of a character," D'Elia says. "Now, [Jerry] can not only be in a courtroom and interact with people, but now for the first time he's with another human being that he cares for and he knows this is the logical step. And Leigh also suffers from Asperger's, so it makes it very complicated."

Also, look for Alan's word salad to return. (D'Elia: "It's very interesting what Lorraine triggers in Alan.") Another plot deals with Carl's efforts to help out Clarence, who is suing an online site for depicting "Clarice" in an unflattering light. "We're just playing around with [Carl]," says D'Elia. "Although he's got a tough side, we want to explain why Shirley's with him — that there is a softer side." So how will this romance affect Carl's relationship with Denny? D'Elia says, "It'll be interesting, but fun. You have this great comic persona in John Larroquette going up against our very own Bill Shatner. It's funny just to have those guys together in a room." The really heavy case, however, is handled by Whitney and Katie, who defend a fired cop charged with murdering a young African-American. As D'Elia explains, "It turned out he killed the wrong guy — and he's declared a racist."

According to D'Elia, Legal's knack for blending the outrageous with the trenchant makes it either "the funniest drama or the most serious comedy — depending on what day of the week it is." No argument here.

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