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Laying Down the New 'Law'

April 25, 1993|JOHN N. GOUDAS

Jill Eikenberry and Michael Tucker are very happy these days because they believe "L.A. Law" is back on track. After a season of shows that the actors thought left the courtroom behind in favor of more "soap opera" plotting, the latest new shows are definitely more to their mutual liking.

"I felt we had betrayed the audience somehow," Eikenberry observed recently, "and when it was suggested that Ann and Stuart actually head toward a divorce, I knew we had reached a wrong fork in the road."

"When Steven Bochco (the show's creator and guiding force for the first years) got wind of the possibility of our characters getting a divorce," Tucker added, "he notified the producers that they would have to kill him first. That's the kind of thinking that was bringing the show down. We had some interesting new characters on the show, but they weren't being used properly, and as for the veterans like Jill, Corbin (Bernsen), Alan (Rachins), Richard (Dysart), Susan (Ruttan) and myself, many of us were given little to do.

"I can't personally complain too much because I had a strong premise with having to regain my memory and dealing with the aftermath of being beaten but even that plotting didn't go the way I had anticipated it would."

The initial ratings for the revamped "L.A. Law" have been good. What makes the difference in "L.A. Law" this season? Both answer in unison: "Bill Finkelstein."

Finkelstein returned to "L.A. Law" after three years and wrote and supervised eight episodes currently being shown. The high quality is very discernible and fans who may have deserted the show, not happy with the direction it took, may be pleasantly surprised now.

Eikenberry and Tucker both feel strongly about the necessity of courtroom know-how in writing the scripts. (Finkelstein was an attorney before he turned to writing for TV.) It's one thing to have a consultant who checks all the "legalese jargon" and still another to have the script written by someone who knows his way around courtroom proceedings.

Eikenberry and Tucker are busy doing other things, including TV and theatrical films, whenever their time permits. They admit their heart is still very much attached to the characters they created seven seasons ago, even though it's been years since they were involved in the "the Venus butterfly" storyline. Although the "V.B." was a fictional figment of a writer's fertile imagination, hordes of viewers wrote the show asking what the ancient sexual practice was.

"L.A. Law" airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on NBC.

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