“L.A. Law” Retrospective (Part 4 of 8)

The gorilla suit that Michael Kuzak wore to woo Grace Van Owen proved valuable in court.  In the third season episode His Suit is Hirsute, Kuzak represents the plaintiff in the Hilbar vs. Bradley case.  The plaintiff seeks damages caused by faulty installation of a heating system that blew up.  He almost died.

To lighten the atmosphere of the courtroom, thereby distracting the jury from the facts, Kuzak’s opposing attorney uses humor.  Frank Pastorini (played by Joe Malone) tap dances, issues one-liners, and employs other forms of playfulness.

Kuzak has some good humor tricks of his own, though.  He wears the gorilla suit while making his closing statement to the jury.  Kuzak acknowledges Pastorini’s entertainment value instead of fighting it.  In turn, he neutralizes Pastorini’s effect, brings the jury’s focus back to the case, and wins a considerable judgment for his client.

Humor, a staple of L.A. Law, arose in a sexual arena.  The Venus Butterfly, a first season episode, caused viewers to speculate about an erotic secret with unparalleled curiosity, wonder, and hope.  In a polygamy case, Arnie and Stuart represent eight women married to Foster Troutman (played by Joe Mays), a fairly average-looking male of the species.  Reluctantly, the women pursue legal action, but only at Arnie’s conscious prodding.  They love Foster Troutman.

He reveals his secret with women, the Venus Butterfly, to Stuart by whispering it in Stuart’s ear.  The audience never learns the specifics.  Stuart utilizes the information proficiently to cement his relationship with Ann that began in the pilot episode.  Seinfeld used a similar sexual mystery in the episode The Fusilli Jerry.  Jerry’s fail-safe sexual maneuver a.k.a. The Move proves to be a bona fide bone of contention between Jerry and his mechanic, David Puddy (played by Patrick Warburton).  Though not described in detail, two clues about the move are provided:  You need a headboard and less than a one foot differential in height between the man and the woman.

In the second season episode Cannon of Ethics, sexual humor appears during an indecent exposure case.  The victim will not repeat the comments allegedly made by the defendant.  So, the judge instructs her to write them on a piece of paper for the jury.  Van Owen then passes the paper among the jury.  One jury member has been dozing.  When Van Owen hands the paper to the newly awakened, sleazy looking juror, he thinks Van Owen authored the comments.  He responds with a wink.

Larry Drake’s realistic, heartfelt, and Emmy-winning portrayal of mentally retarded office worker Benny Stulwicz evolved from a guest appearance on the first season episode Becker on the Rox.  Abby defends Benny on a theft charge resulting from a “friend” tricking him into the unlawful act.  The judge declares Benny not guilty because his mental condition prevents him from forming an intent to steal.

In the second season episode Full Marital Jacket, Benny is arrested for rape.  McKenzie Brackman’s lawyers argue on how to proceed.  Admittedly, Arnie does not have a solid opinion of Benny’s innocence.  In a dramatic scene, Arnie questions Benny about the events at issue.  He quickly realizes that Benny is innocent.  During the trial, the victim agrees to a voice identification test because the rapist made verbal demands during the attack.  She cannot identify Benny as the rapist because his voice is slower than the one she heard during the attack.

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